Époupa leads Lynx past Dallas 87-76 for best start in five years

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Olivia Époupa saw action in five of the first seven Lynx games this season, for a grand total of 36 minutes.

She led the team Sunday.

Her offensive numbers of four points and two assists are not going to jump off the state sheet, but the great energy and defensive play — including four steals — by the unheralded backup point guard played a huge role in the Minnesota Lynx continuing their best start in five seasons.

The spark provided by Époupa helped the Lynx dominate late to beat Dallas 87-76 and improve to 6-2 for the first time since the 2020 bubble season.

“I really think she was like the momentum change when she came in,” said Napheesa Collier, who led the way with 24 points and 14 rebounds. “Just like steal after steal, deflection, just being such a pest on defense, getting out in transition. I feel it was kind of neck-and-neck for a while, but she came in and broke the game open for us.”

Minnesota led 51-50 with 3 minutes, 32 seconds to go in the third quarter when Époupa checked back in. She played 11 seconds in the first half.

With Époupa playing dynamically at both ends, the Lynx scored 26 of the game’s next 35 points for a 77-59 lead midway through the fourth.

Coach Cheryl Reeve said she went over to the rookie from France with about five minutes to play, thanking her for being ready when she got an opportunity.

“She’s been on our minds because we’ve been in situations like this before; we felt like she’s one that could help us through it. Today we actually pulled the trigger and did it. Obviously, she was pretty impactful for us,” said Reeve who won her 306th game as a WNBA head coach, tying Bill Laimbeer for second-most all time. Longtime Connecticut and Washington coach Mike Thibault has 379.

Époupa said her mindset this season has been simple.

“I just tried to get myself ready working hard,” she said. “We know that we have a great team with great leaders, so just be ready, focus on my team and when my time comes, I try to help the team as much as possible.”

Up 61-59 early in the fourth, the Lynx scored the next 16 points, including nine by Collier.

Minnesota had seven of its 15 steals in the fourth. For the game, the Lynx scored 30 points off 28 Dallas turnovers.

Kayla McBride led the Lynx with 25 points, including 15 from outside the arc, and also played tough defense against Arike Ogunbowale, the league’s top scorer at 27.5 points per game entering the day. Ogunbowale was 6-of-17 shooting, finishing with 21 points.

Collier said Époupa epitomizes the Lynx depth.

“We have such depth that goes down the line where if you take one person away there’s someone right behind them to make up for that,” Coller said. “Courtney (Williams) struggled today a little bit and Ollie came in and won us the game with her defense. It’s just so hard to play against teams like that. I knew this was coming, it’s just really exciting to see it play out.”

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