For the Sun, it's the new, more 'edgy' Chiney Ogwumike
Mohegan — Chiney Ogwumike got ejected the last time the Connecticut Sun played at the Dallas Wings.
Yes, Ogwumike got tossed during Connecticut's 92-75 win at Dallas on July 22. Ogwumike, the social butterfly. Ogwumike, the smiling ESPN host. Ogwumike, 6 feet, 4 inches of serotonin.
“Yeah, I’m a little more edgy this year because, I can’t even, I feel like I’m going to get in trouble for talking,” Ogwumike said. “I feel like sometimes we’re playing two games. On one side, we’re playing one game, and on the other side of the court, we’re playing another game? We just have to push through.”
The edgy Ogwumike and the Sun play at Dallas on Wednesday (College Park Center, 8 p.m.). Connecticut would qualify for the playoffs with a win.
“It’s a little contagious because I play with people with an edge,” Ogwumike said. “Alyssa Thomas has an edge. Jas (Jasmine Thomas) has an edge. Betnijah (Laney) had a huge edge (Sunday).
“You can’t be the soft one in the mix. You have to be a pit bull. Courtney (Williams), she has an edge. She’s just hilarious.”
It’s amazing at times watching Ogwumike play this year knowing that she missed all of last season after needing Achilles tendon surgery in November, 2016. She also missed the entire 2015 season due to microfracture surgery on her right knee.
Ogwumike, a post, has played as good as ever this year. She’s averaged a team-high 14.4 points, is second in the WNBA in field goal percentage (.609) and eighth in rebounding (7.4). She was the only Sun player chosen to play in the All-Star Game.
Ogwumike didn’t expect to be doing so well.
“I was just happy to be back,” Ogwumike said. “I just wanted to contribute to what (Connecticut) built upon last year, which was so amazing. I just feel fortunate to be back and so I try to play every possession like it’s my last, but also just have fun.
“I’m living the dream. Not many people have two, three chances to do what they love.”
Ogwumike is also holding her own despite her lithe frame. She’s listed as 173 pounds and doesn’t have a powerful build like teammate Alyssa Thomas, Dallas' Liz Cambage or reigning WNBA MVP Sylvia Fowles of the Minnesota Lynx.
Ogwumike went right at the larger Carolyn Swords (6-6, 215) on Sunday and succeeded during the Sun’s 109-88 win over the Las Vegas Aces. She made 6 of 9 shots for 13 points with six rebounds.
“She’s such a productive finisher,” Connecticut coach Curt Miller said. “She’s got a lot of secondary moves, counter moves. She’s slithery on the baseline and gets to a reverse layup.
“I see a fire in her when some things don’t go her way and that is something I didn’t see a couple of years ago. … She’s an inspiration, what she’s gone through in this league with injuries and has come back and continues to perform. We’re a better team because of it.”
Connecticut (16-12) is fifth in the overall standings, one game behind the Los Angeles Sparks (17-11) and a half game in front of the defending champion Minnesota Lynx (16-13). It holds the tiebreaker over both teams. The top eight teams make the playoffs.
The Sun have six games left, including their final four at home.
The WNBA’s playoff race was dramatically altered Tuesday by several events. It began when the league assessed the Las Vegas Aces (12-17) a loss for refusing to play its game at the Washington Mystics last Friday.
The Chicago Sky (10-19) and Las Vegas both lost Tuesday night, too.
The Atlanta Dream (19-10), Washington (18-11) and Los Angeles all clinched playoff berths Tuesday night. The Seattle Storm (23-7) clinched last Friday.
Dallas (14-14) has lost its last five games, including the last two without All-Star guard Skyler Diggins-Smith. She drove to the rim during the second quarter of a July 31 home game against the Chicago Sky and, while driving the lane, leapt in the air, collided with Chicago’s Cheyenne Parker, and landed chin first.
Diggins-Smith missed most of that quarter but returned in the second half and scored 15. She's averaged 18 points and 6.2 assists. There was no word from the team on her status for Wednesday's game.
The 6-8 Cambage (22.8 ppg, 9.6 rpg) is among the top contenders for WNBA MVP.
The Wings are one of the league’s tougher matchups. They play at one of the fastest paces, are third in rebounding (36.8) and third in defensive field goal percentage (.433). They also lead the league in free throw attempts (25.3) and free throws made (20).
The Sun are the only team with five players averaging double figures in points: Courtney Williams (12.7), Jasmine Thomas (12.5), Jonquel Jones (10.1), Alyssa Thomas (10.1) and Ogwumike. They’ve also set a WNBA team record with nine different players scoring 20-or-more in a season.