Before Leaving For More Training In France, USA Uses Strong Second Half To Defeat Canada In Exhibition Game
• VIDEO: Phantom Cam highlights
That must have been quite the halftime speech. After starting off sluggish and leading Canada by only two buckets going into the locker room, the USA Basketball Women's National Team hit the floor in a whole different gear in the third quarter, going on a 13-0 rally to eventually roll to a 76-51 sendoff win.
Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks) was the high scorer for the U.S. with 10 points while Odyssey Sims (Tulsa Shock) and Breanna Stewart (University of Connecticut) added nine each in a fairly balanced offensive attack during the FIBA World Championship tune-up.
Stewart, who is heading into her junior year at UConn and is currently the youngest player for the red, white and blue, is just excited for the experience and is optimistic about making the final 12-man roster.
“I think that obviously I want to try and get better and improve every day,” said Stewart. “I just want to be able to continue this journey with the team as long as they go.”
And while Stewart is the newbie, it’s hard to believe that Sue Bird (Seattle Storm) is now the matriarch of the squad at 33, even though she more closely resembles the age of an AAU player in person — until she hits the court, that is.
“Usually what wears teams down is our depth,” said Bird, who will be on a record-breaking fourth USA World Championship team if selected. “I think over the course of game, when we are constantly subbing and throwing fresh legs at you, it’s hard to play only seven or eight people. So that is generally our biggest advantage.”
The USA team flies to Paris Tuesday for three more exhibition games against Australia, China and France in order to help finalize that roster, before official tournament play begins for them on Sept. 27 against China.
“We’ll find out more when we get to France and we play three games in three days,” said Auriemma. “The competition is going to be really good so we’ll find out a lot about ourselves and about these young guys. We’ll see if they can play at that level so, by next Monday, I’ll know a lot more than I know right now.”
The one thing that’s still ambiguous is just who else will be joining them in the City of Lights. Of the seven roster members from the Chicago Sky and Phoenix Mercury, who just wrapped up their WNBA finals on Friday, Diana Taurasi, DeWanna Bonner, Candice Dupree and Courtney Vandersloot are all still in the mix.
More questionable players are Brittney Griner, who is still dealing with an eye procedure to correct her retina after taking a blow to the face last week, and also Elena Delle Donne, who had to be shot up for most of the finals due to major back pain — hence, sitting for a six-hour flight might not be ideal. The one definite scratch from the group is Sylvia Fowles, who is still dealing with a nagging foot injury, according to Auriemma.
But one thing more assured was that the basketball crazy Bridgeport, Connecticut, crowd was the perfect sendoff as they go for a ninth gold, and Auriemma indulged the approximately 7,500 in attendance by posing with his Husky progeny in Bird, Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx), Tina Charles (New York Liberty), Stefanie Dolson (Washington Mystics) and Stewart, plus incoming freshman guard Kia Nurse of Canada.
“Right from the beginning it was really loud and they were very excited not only for the UConn players, but also the USA players,” said Dolson. “I mean they all watched all these girls throughout college, not just UConn. It was just a great place for our first game to have some momentum going into Paris.”