By Sydney Gibbs
Behind Monique Billings’ double-double, the Atlanta Dream closed out opening weekend with an impressive 105-95 win over the Dallas Wings. All five starters for the Dream ended the game in double digits, but Billings put on a stellar performance, leading both teams with a career-high 30 points and 13 rebounds.
“Mo (Monique) put in the work,” head coach Nicki Collen said. “Nobody worked harder in the offseason, nobody worked harder during quarantine and in the gym to continue to be really consistent. She’s always played with a ton of energy.”
Billings’ confidence and comfortability level was through the roof and it’s something she’s been building up over these past few months.
“This offseason before coming to the bubble, I put in a lot of work and now it’s time to walk in the confidence of my preparation,” Billings said. “I have to stay steady and not get too hot. It’s a great win but we got another game coming up on Wednesday, it’s on to the next.”
Collen said during preseason she wanted to play with a lot more pace, and that seamlessly translated onto the floor. Atlanta was very effective from both ends in the first half, shooting 64% from the paint and holding Dallas to just 47%. All that energy from the first half made its way into the second. Dallas started to climb it’s way back into the game but Atlanta never gave up their lead.
A year ago, they only scored over 90 points twice. This isn’t remotely close to the same team from the 2019 season. The offensive and defensive ineffectiveness from last year was not the team’s identity in Sunday’s game against the Wings. The Dream were strong and aggressive right out of the gate.
The poise of the Dream’s starting five was a major positive takeaway. Not one player in that lineup had below 15 points. Elizabeth Williams went perfect from the field, posting 17 points. Betnijah Laney went away with 19 points, Shekinna Stricklen added 16, and the rookie sensation, Chennedy Carter recorded 18 points and eight assists in her WNBA debut.
Carter, the scoring sensation out of Texas A&M was expected to get a lot of court time right away. While her first two quarters were a little rocky, she started to settle herself into the pace of the game when the third quarter started ticking away. Her relentlessness and incredible talent is going to be a great addition to this Dream team as the season progresses.
“Eighteen and eight is pretty good for a rookie,” Collen said. “She had moments where I don’t think she engaged on defense early so I really challenged her there. She’s just kind of learning. I’m really proud of Chennedy. This was a high pace game.”
The Dream will take the court again on Wednesday, July 29 against the Las Vegas Aces at 10 p.m ET on CBSSN.
- Atlanta’s all-time record against the Dallas/Tulsa franchise improves to 17-8.
- The Dream started Monique Billings, Shekinna Stricklen, Elizabeth Williams, Betnijah Laney and Chennedy Carter.
- All five Dream starters scored in double-figures in the season opener.
- Atlanta scored 100 points for the first time since August 9, 2018 (109 vs Las Vegas).
- Only five Dream games in franchise history have resulted in a combined score higher than today’s 200 points
- July 22, 2014 – Minnesota 112, Atlanta 108
- July 7, 2010 – Atlanta 108, Connecticut 103
- June 27, 2008 – Connecticut 109, Atlanta 101
- August 7, 2018 – Atlanta 109, Las Vegas 100
- August 11, 2011 – Phoenix 109, Atlanta 95
- The Dream are now 7-5 all-time in season openers.
- Betnijah Laney finished with a career-high 19 points.
- Monique Billings scored a career-high 30 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. She registered her second career double-double.
- The last Dream player to register at least 30 points was Tiffany Hayes on August 10, 2019 at Indiana.
- Rookie Chennedy Carter started and finished with 18 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds her WNBA debut over 30 minutes.
- Rookies led both teams in assists in the season opener.
- Elizabeth Williams finished with an extremely efficient 17 points. She went 7-7 from the field and 3-3 from the line.
- Shekinna Stricklen scored 16 points and knocked down 4 three-pointers in her Dream debut.
- Blake Dietrick finished with a career high 5 assists and a career-best 27 minutes.
- With both Blake Dietrick (ATL) and Bella Alarie (DAL) checking in to today’s game, they become the first Princeton graduates to meet in a WNBA game in league history. The only other times two Ivy League grads have met in a WNBA game were the four matchups between Dietrick and Temi Fagbenle in 2018 and 2019 (Although Fagbenle lists USC as her school, she holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard).
- Elizabeth Williams is…
- 5 rebounds away from reaching 1,000 career rebounds.
- 22 blocks away from taking over as the Dream’s all-time leader in blocks (currently: 259)