USA Fights Off Australia For 72-66 Exhibition Win
The USA (2-0), which led by just one point at halftime, 28-27, in its exhibition game against Australia, pulled away with a 9-0 run late in the third quarter for a 72-66 win in the 2014 France International Tournament on Friday night at Pierre de Coubertin Stadium in Paris, France. In the last minute of the game, the USA led 72-59 before Australia closed with the last seven points to make the finish seem closer than it was. In the tournament's second game of the evening, France downed China 74-54.
All 15 U.S. players saw at least eight minutes of playing time, all 15 put points on the board and the USA recorded 19 assists on its 30 made field goals. The USA roster had grown to 15 players just yesterday with the addition of Candice Dupree (Phoenix Mercury) and Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury).
“We’re kind of in a little bit of a quandary,” said USA coach Geno Auriemma (University of Connecticut). “We obviously want to win the game, which is priority No. 1. But it’s a little unusual that priority No. 1-A is trying to get 15 players somewhat significant playing time as opposed to garbage time. So there’s no offensive flow, it’s tough on defense and we looked like it at times. But we’re trying to put our team together. We’re trying to find the right combination for everybody, and it’s important that we do that. I don’t want to sacrifice the game to do that, I’m glad we won, but I think you could see some things that we were doing that looked really, really good and some things that obviously we have to work on.”
Breanna Stewart (University of Connecticut) led the USA with nine points, while Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx), Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx) and Nnemkadi Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks) each finished with seven points. Moore and Ogwumike also each grabbed six rebounds, and Taurasi dished out six assists.
“It was very competitive,” Stewart said. “Obviously coming in we knew they were a really good team and they were going to give us a good fight. I think that after we went through our subs and picked the tempo up, we kind of got away from them a little bit.”
The USA put the first points on the board and took a 9-6 lead early in the game, but Australia responded with an 8-0 run to go ahead 14-9 at 1:22 in the first quarter. Helped by nine points in the period from Liz Cambage, Australia led 18-11 at the first break. The USA shot just 5-for-21 from the field (.238) in the first quarter and got outrebounded 15-12.
The USA immediately began to chip away at the deficit in the second period, and was within two points, 18-16, when Augustus completed a three-point play after she was fouled on a jumper at 7:56. Australia’s biggest threat, Cambage, went to the bench at 8:08, favoring her right ankle. She did not return to the game.
Australia was back up by four points, 23-19, at 6:25 when a score from Jantel Lavender (Los Angeles Sparks) kicked off a 9-0 U.S. run that included a 3-pointer from Kayla McBride (San Antonio Stars), who had just checked in to mark playing time for all 15 U.S. players at 5:08 in the second. Australia, however, closed the first half with four-straight points to trail by just one point at halftime, 28-27.
The lead changed hands six times in third quarter before the USA began to take control. With the USA trailing 35-33, Sue Bird (Seattle Storm) followed up a 3-pointer with a three-point play and Moore added two free throws to put the USA up 41-35 at 5:21. After two scores from Australia, the USA put together a second 9-0 streak to push its advantage to 50-39 at 1:07. Both teams scored once more to make it 52-41 headed into the final 10 minutes.
The USA’s largest lead of the game, 16 points, came at 7:36 in the final stanza when Odyssey Sims (Tulsa Shock) scored for the Americans. From there, the teams went back and forth before the last minute saw Australia score seven unanswered points to bring the game to its 72-66 final.
“They are a tough team,” Taurasi said. “They always play physical, and they have some of the best players in the world, so it was a tough game. But today for this group being together for the first time, I think we did a pretty good job.”
The USA, which did improve its shooting from the first quarter, finished at 39.0 percent from the field (30-77 FGs), including 48.6 percent (18-37 FGs) in the second half, but it never got on top of Australia on the boards, losing the rebounding battle 52-43.
“The first half, we weren’t making a lot of shots, but we turned it around in the second half, and we were able to capitalize on their mistakes and also finish inside,” Ogwumike said.
Finalists for the 2014 USA World Championship Team will continue the round-robin exhibition tournament against 2013 FIBA Asia Championship bronze medalist China on Sept. 20 (10 a.m. EDT) and close the round-robin tournament against host France, silver medalist at the 2012 Olympics, on Sept. 21 (11 a.m. EDT).
From Paris, the Americans will head to Prague, Czech Republic, for an exhibition against 2010 FIBA World Championship silver medalist Czech Republic on Sept. 23 (1 p.m. EDT) at Tipsport Arena, before traveling to Istanbul for its 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 held Australia to a dismal 13.6 percent from 3-point (3-22 3pt FGs) and forced 18 Aussie turnovers, while committing just 13 of its own.