Las Vegas, NV (May 6, 2018)—The Las Vegas Aces christened the team’s new arena Sunday, as the Aces upended the Chinese National Team, 98-63 at Mandalay Bay Events Center. A’ja Wilson scored 20 points, grabbed seven rebounds and handed out three assists in her first game as a pro, while Nia Coffey poured in 15 points and grabbed seven boards, and Ivey Slaughter was a perfect seven-for-seven from the field and added 14 points off the bench.
The Aces trailed 28-27 with 5:55 to go in the second quarter, but scored 25 of the next 31 points to establish a double-digit lead. Las Vegas outscored the Chinese National Team 22-9 in the fourth quarter in cruising to the 35-point victory.
In her first game as a pro, A’ja Wilson went eight for 11 from the field and four of five from the free throw lien en0route to a team-high 20 points.
The Aces forced 35 turnovers on the night, turning them into 40 points. Tha helped the team take 15 more shots from the floor than China, and take 36 free throws to China’s 12.
Las Vegas dominated in the paint, outscoring the Chinese National Team 54-32.
The Aces outscored China 20-6 in fast break points.
Shay Ting and Han Xu combined to score 38 of 63 points for the Chinese National Team, going a combined 16 for 23 from the field.
Head Coach Bill Laimbeer
On Aja Wilson’s debut
I thought we did what we wanted to do with her. We wanted to establish her presence with our basketball team, and show the world the capabilities she has. Especially in the pro game where the lane is so much bigger. One of her greatest strength is she can drive the basketball quick and aggressively. I think she learned a little bit about that.
She still got a little nervous at the start, missed some free throws, but overall I thought it was a really solid performance for her. 20 points in 21 minutes and seven rebounds, a couple of blocked shots. That’s pretty good for the first time that the pressure is on her.
On finally playing another team after practicing against each other since the start of training camp.
It’s nice to go out and play somebody else, but that’s not a WNBA team. They don’t have the defensive schemes and offensive schemes that WNBA teams will have. But still it was a good learning experience for some of our youngsters. They got a chance to get out and get the nervousness out. You saw in the beginning where we turned the ball over all over the place, and they weren’t getting into their stuff, and it was just a little frustrating for the coach. But overall they played right through it, and I’m pleased with their performance.
On the atmosphere at the team’s new home, the Mandalay Bay Events Center
When the players came in and saw the venue today from the locker room to the court. The court is spectacular. It looks really nice. The seats are all brand new. And that all plays into the atmosphere we are trying to create.
Now for me personally, I don’t pay attention to the rest of it. My back is always to it all the time: I’m talking to the players; I’m concentrating on the game. So I’m the wrong guy to ask about the fan experience. I can tell you about how the arena looks and the back of the house is really nice for the players too, but as far as whatever wenton during the game, I don’t have a clue.
Starting Forward A’ja Wilson
On making her WNBA debut
“I felt good. It felt really, really good. I feel like we had great energy as a team, great chemistry. We’ve only been playing together for about a week, so for us to come out and really come together is something special.”
On the Las Vegas crowd in attendance
“It was really, really good. We’re trying to form a fanbase here. For them to come out and see us win, I think that’s a good thing for us and hopefully that’ll continue.”
On the defensive intensity coming out of halftime
“I think it was, more so, the adrenaline was going. We were good, we were getting back to our system. This is our first game as a franchise and together, so it was a lot of nerves and a lot of energy going in. Once we settled down, we really got things going. You saw the real Aces.”
Reserve Guard/Forward And Las Vegas native Sequoia Holmes
On the importance of playing in Las Vegas
“It means a lot. To have my family and friends here supporting and just the city to back us and have a professional team here, it’s a great feeling.”
On the first thing she noticed when she stepped on the court
“At an exhibition game, we had so many fans out here. A lot of the arenas don’t get that, I was pleased.”
On what she is trying to work on before the regular season begins
“When you first start, there’s a lot of bugs. You want to get the jitters out, but just executing and working through the fatigue. But overall, I think we put out a great effort for the fans to see that we’re going to play hard.”
Starting Forward Nia Coffey
On how she felt making her season debut
“I felt that I did pretty well. I definitely relied on my teammates for energy and direction. They did a great job of helping me get through that game, making sure I was in the right places, so with that I did pretty well.”
On if the coaches wanted her to be be aggressive on offense
“Yes, they talked about me being very aggressive and using my quickness as an advantage over my defenders, so I just wanted to make sure I implemented their direction to my game.”
On the Las Vegas crowd making their season debut as well
“It was absolutely amazing. They did such a great job with the gym. It was such an inviting atmosphere and environment. I definitely think the fans had a good time and I’m looking forward to them setting that foundation with us and growing with us as a team.”