USA Falls To France 76-72 In Exhibition
After leading by as many as 18 points, the 2014 USA Basketball Women’s National Team (3-1) lost to a resilient France (2-1) team that battled its way back to lead 71-67 with 26.4 second remaining and then made 3-of-4 free throws down the stretch and secured a crucial rebound on the fourth attempt to top the USA in the 2014 France International Tournament on Sunday evening in Paris, France.
With the USA trailing 71-67 and 26.4 seconds left in the game, Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx) sank her first 3-pointer in the contest at 17.8 seconds to make it 71-70. As the USA fouled to stop the clock, France made two free throws, and then Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) made two free throws at 15.0 seconds to again pull the USA within one point, 73-72. The USA again fouled at 9.4 seconds, trying to play catch up. France made the first free throw and missed the second attempt, but secured a critical rebound to run precious seconds off the clock. The USA fouled for the last time at 4.8 seconds, and France made both tries to secure the 76-72 win.
“We talked to the players about how difficult all this is going to be,” said USA head coach Geno Auriemma (University of Connecticut). “Sometimes maybe we think this is going to be easy, but it’s not going to be easy. It’s not easy to beat a really good team on their home floor if you don’t shoot the ball well, if you don’t make shots. The way we started in the first quarter, I thought we started the right way. Our defense was really good. Our offense was going. And then when we got into a little bit of a lull, France and Sandrine (Gruda) especially, they just made shots. They deserved to win tonight. No question about that.”
French forward Sandrine Gruda finished with 26 points and 15 rebounds, and overall, the Americans were outrebounded 44-38.
“I play overseas and I’ve played against these girls,” said Tina Charles (New York Liberty), who was the USA’s leading scorer with 12 points and seven rebounds. “The way they came out, their tenacity, their fans were behind them and they just didn’t let up. As far as for us, an experience isn’t what happens to you, it’s what you do with it. It’s all about how we respond to the coaching staff, to the film that we watch, especially on ourselves, individually. We’re going to see them again. It’s all about how we respond.”
While the USA dropped to just 36.7 percent from the field in the second half (11-30 FGs), France heated up to 53.8 percent after the midway point (21-39 FGs).
Moore added 11 points for the USA; and Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), who also grabbed six rebounds, and Taurasi, who collected four steals, had 10 points apiece.
“We did some good things, obviously not for long enough stretches,” Taurasi said. “And France played really well. They made plays. In the second half, they made us work on the other end, and they made big shots and we didn’t.”
The U.S. defense frustrated France’s flow to start the game with nine steals in the first quarter, including six in the first five minutes, and it also held France to a paltry 16.7 percent from the field (2-12 FGs.) in the first period. With the USA leading 6-4 at 6:43, the USA put together 10 unanswered points to take a 16-4 lead at 2:35 when Charles scored from the field. After one more score from France, Candice Dupree (Phoenix Mercury) put up four-straight points to give the USA a 20-6 lead at the first break.
Starting for the first time, Nnemkadi Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks) had five boards in the first 10 minutes.
The USA grabbed its largest lead of the game, 24-6, when Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx) scored at 8:30, but France fought back, and helped by 10-of-11 shooting from the free throw line, nearly kept pace with the USA in the second quarter. The USA, which shot 50.0 percent from the field (8-16 FGs) in the second period, outscored France 20-18 to bring the score to 38-26 at halftime.
France made a run at the USA right from the start in the second half, and buoyed by 10 points from Gruda in the first 3:43 of the third quarter, had cut the USA’s lead to eight points, 46-38 at 5:49. The USA scored twice to go back up by double-digits, 50-38 at 3:15, but France outscored the USA 8-3 from there to head into the fourth period down by just seven points, 53-46.
It took France nearly seven minutes to grab its second lead of the game – the first of which it had held at 2-0 when it scored first in the game. Its second lead came off of an offensive rebound at 3:43 that made it 63-62. The lead changed hands four times in the next 2:44 before France answered a 3-pointer from Sue Bird (Seattle Storm) with its second-straight three to make it 69-67 in its favor. The USA never again led.
“I think in my experience every loss has been a good thing,” Bird said. “It’s kind of woken us up and showed us some things that we need to work on. Usually, it plays out to our favor. I can think of literally every time I’ve lost in this USA jersey, and it’s helped us, so that’s how we are looking at it. That’s why you play these games leading up to a competition, to see what you need to work on. And we definitely found out some things.”
In the tournament’s first game of the day, China (1-2) beat Australia (1-2) 76-70.
The USA will head to Prague, Czech Republic, for an exhibition against Czech Republic on Sept. 23 (1 p.m. EDT) at Tipsport Arena, before traveling to Istanbul for their final pre-World Championship preparations.
The FIBA World Championship will be held Sept. 27-Oct. 5 in Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey.
Auriemma is being assisted on the sideline by DePaul University head coach Doug Bruno, Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve and University of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley; while University of Hartford head coach Jennifer Rizzotti serves as an advance scout and court coach for the 2014 USA squad.
The USA owns a record eight gold medals, one silver medal and two bronze medals in FIBA World Championship play, while compiling an all-time 97-21 record at the event. In 2010, the most recent World Championship, the U.S. finished with a perfect 9-0 record and the gold medal.
STAT NOTES: The USA outscored France in the paint 34-18 … both teams shot poorly from 3-point, including 3-14 for the USA (.214) and 3-of-15 for France (.200) … while the USA was 15-of-20 from the foul line (.750), France was 17-of-21 from the line (.810).