MVP Arike Ogunbowale leads All-Star Game upset of Team USA ahead of Olympics

·6 min read

A selection of WNBA All-Stars might have historic bragging rights by the end of August. 

Team WNBA upset Team USA, 93-85, in the 2021 WNBA All-Star Game at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas on Wednesday night. The national team is going for a record seventh consecutive gold at the Tokyo Olympics and rarely loses, even in exhibition matchups. 

The league doesn't typically hold an official All-Star Game in an Olympic year, but did so in a unique format for the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics. The 12 members of Team USA were automatic WNBA All-Stars and 12 more WNBA players were voted in to compete against them. 

The U.S. team will play exhibitions against Australia and Nigeria in Vegas before heading to the Games. Both teams feature current WNBA talent in Liz Cambage and potentially Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike, though Nneka's bid for Nigeria has reportedly been denied.

Allie Quigley won her third consecutive 3-point contest title at halftime and ahead of the fourth quarter, the current U.S. national team honored the gold-medal-winning team of 1996. 

Ogunbowale leads WNBA over Olympic team

Dallas Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale led all scorers in her first All-Star Game with 26 points, showing she's likely to lock in a spot on the 2024 Olympic team. She was 5-for-10 from 3-point range and looked from the jump like she was gunning for MVP. The total was the fourth-largest in an All-Star game. 

Connecticut Sun center Jonquel Jones, who noted ahead of the game she wanted those bragging rights of beating the national team, finished with her standard double-double of 18 points and 14 rebounds. 

"I’m going to be like 85, talking to my grandkids, and I’ll be like, ‘Yeah, back in 2021, we beat the gold-medal team, so technically I won a gold medal,'" Jones said of wanting to win in the days before the game.

She also had four assists, three steals and two blocks, becoming the first in an All-Star game with that packed of a stat line. It's the fifth such line in any WNBA game and Jones, a lead WNBA MVP candidate, has two of them.  

Atlanta Dream first-time All-Star Courtney Williams came up clutch on both ends in the fourth quarter, scoring 15 points off the bench on 7-for-8 shooting for Team WNBA. 

The trio along with first-time All-Star Brionna Jones helped the team pull away in the middle of the fourth. Jonquel Jones hit a 3-pointer to match first-time Olympian Chelsea Gray's 3, tying it at 71-71. Williams made a 10-footer and Brionna Jones laid one in on an assist from Sun teammate Jones. 

Breanna Stewart broke the streak with a jumper for USA, but Ogunbowale drilled a 3-pointer and-1 falling out of bounds to fire up the All-Stars, 79-73. Back-to-back layups by Williams and another Ogunbowale 3 helped them pull even farther ahead at 86-78 with 3:42 left despite small buckets by USA. 

They outscored Team USA, 27-19, in the fourth. 

All-Star Game of rare defense

The All-Star Game experienced historic line movement by bookmakers ahead of tipoff, a signifier that it was expected to be a more tightly defended contest than was typical. The game total opened at 251.5 at BetMGM and dropped to 191.5.

Candace Parker, who had five points, five rebounds and five assists in her sixth All-Star Game, knew what was up early. 

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Though it wasn't the stiff defense and strong rebounding typical of regular-season games, both sides contested shots and made it tough to get good looks. It really heated up, particularly under the basket, in the fourth quarter of a tie game. And everyone, including All-Star Liz Cambage, had their popcorn out. 

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Team USA center Brittney Griner scored a team-high 17 points with only three rebounds and two assists. Stewart scored 12, going 3-for-7 from 3-point range, with six rebounds. And Sylvia Fowles came off the bench to add 12. 

Team WNBA held narrow lead throughout

The two All-Star teams swapped the lead four times in the first half and were tied six times. Team WNBA held the slim 44-43 advantage at halftime with Ogunbowale scoring 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting while "live tweeting" the action in her time off the court. 

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Jonquel Jones had eight points, sinking both of her 3-pointers in the first quarter, and six rebounds. 

3-point contest: Allie Quigley three-peats, says she'll retire from contest

Chicago Sky guard Allie Quigley won the 3-point contest for a third consecutive All-Star Game, but it wasn't without great competition. 

Jonquel Jones, the 6-foot-6 center, came to play. Jones knocked down nearly every shot in the first round, missing only five shots, and made it to the final with 27 points. She's a 43.7% (31-for-71) 3-point shooter this season. 

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Quigley got into the final with 28 points after a mid-round review bumped it up a point. Seattle Storm guard Jewell Loyd went first and made 18 points, followed by the New York Liberty's Sami Whitcomb with 26 points. 

In the final, Quigley won her third consecutive title with a calm 26-point performance, enough on the final rack to edge out Jones' 24. She made nine of her final 10 to take the title and said afterward it would be her last competition — though we'll see if that holds next summer. Boos rained down from fans in Vegas when she told ESPN's Holly Rowe. 

Honoring 1996 Team USA 

The 1996 Atlanta Olympics were a pivotal one for women's athletics and marked the first of the basketball team's six consecutive Olympic golds. 

That team was honored between the third and fourth quarters of the All-Star Game, and players received flowers from the current members of Team USA. Among the '96 players in attendance were Team WNBA co-coach Lisa Leslie and ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo. 

First-time Olympian Napheesa Collier's fiancé, Alex Bazzell, shared a sweet set of photos and tweet showcasing what the connection between 1996 and the 2020-21 team means. 

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The 1996 team also wrote cards for the 2020 team, as shared by Rowe.  

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The 1996 Olympic Games and Team USA helped usher in the WNBA, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary season this year. 

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