USA Battles To 94-74 Win Over Serbia
• VIDEO: Game Recap
The 2014 USA Basketball Women’s World Championship Team (2-0) fought off a resilient Serbia (1-1) team that was within six points at the start of the fourth quarter before the USA pulled away for a 94-74 win in the 2014 FIBA World Championship on Sunday night at Abdi Ipekci Arena in Istanbul, Turkey.
“That’s a really, really good team that plays with a lot of heart, that plays with a lot of passion,” said USA head coach Geno Auriemma (University of Connecticut). “I’m not surprised that the game was difficult. But, we have some amazing players on our team that when the game is to be won, they make winning plays.”
Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) helped the USA break free from Serbia with 13 of her 20 points in the fourth quarter, including three 3-pointers, and Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx) finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury) also had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“It was a tough game,” Taurasi said. “Every possession was a battle. They made us work on defense. There are some things we probably got to clean up. These games are good for us. This team hasn’t been together very long. In the two weeks that we’ve been together, we’ve been battle-tested a couple of times, which in the long run will only help us.”
While the USA will wrap up preliminary round play against Angola (0-2) on Sept. 30 (2:30 p.m. EDT, NBA TV and ESPN3), the win over Serbia secured the USA the No. 1 seed out of Group D and a berth into the medal-round quarterfinals.
The USA jumped out to a 6-0 lead, including four points from Tina Charles (New York Liberty), who finished with 10 points, but Serbia worked its way back to within striking distance, and then struck. With the USA leading 13-9, Serbia put together an 8-0 run to go ahead 17-13 at 2:15 in the first quarter. Each team scored twice more, and the USA trailed 21-17 at the first break. Serbia’s press helped it force seven of the USA’s eventual 21 turnovers in the first 10 minutes alone.
With a score to start the second quarter, Serbia went up by six points, 23-17, but by the time Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream) scored on a fast break off a steal and assist from Candice Dupree (Phoenix Mercury), the USA was within one, 25-24. Serbia scored three more points before three straight 3s from Moore put the USA ahead 33-31. Her third 3-pointer was the start of a 9-0 run that gave the USA a 39-31 lead at 3:43. The teams ended the half by trading scores, including a 3-pointer from Serbia to just beat the buzzer, and the score was 49-42 midway through the game.
“The game was very fast,” Moore said. “Serbia did a great job of trying to speed the game up and make it a little chaotic with their defensive aggression. But, I thought after we continued to be aggressive, just as aggressive, and being smarter and aggressive, it really paid off for us, and we were really able to push the lead out. And just coming up and hitting big shots when we needed to, and our defense was excellent in the second half.”
The USA was a red-hot 68.4 percent (13-19 FGs) in the second period to help turn the tide, but it struggled to contain Serbia's Ana Dabovic, who had 22 points by halftime.
“It was extremely tough,” Charles said of the game. “They’re a great team, spreading the court, going one-on-one. Ana Dobovic played great. I played with her in Moscow this past season. She was just making shots and being an offensive threat for her team.”
Serbia refused to let the USA pull away in the third quarter, outscoring the USA 15-7 in the first 4:58 to take a 57-56 lead at 5:02. The USA answered with six-straight points to regain control, 62-57 at 4:04, and from there the teams went back and forth to end the third period with the USA leading 70-64.
Taurasi hit her first 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter to help get the USA rolling, and overall the USA outscored Serbia 24-10 in the last 10 minutes to earn the win.
Taurasi shot 5-of-7 from 3-point and Moore was 3-of-6 from deep to help the USA finish 9-of-16 from behind the arc for 56.3 percent overall.
“The scoreboard doesn’t show what kind of game it was,” said Nnemkadi Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks). “Luckily at the end, we picked up our defense. We didn’t foul as much, and we hit shots, so we were able to kind of creep away from them in terms of the lead, but at the end of the day, we really fought for this one.”
In today’s other games, in the USA’s Group D, China (1-1) won against Angola 65-39; while in Group C, also in Istanbul, Australia (2-0) cruised past South Korea (0-2) 87-54, and Belarus (2-0) edged out Cuba (0-2) 70-69 with a late comeback. In Ankara, Turkey, Group A saw Czech Republic (2-0) defeat Japan (0-2) 71-57, and Spain (2-0) top Brazil (0-2) 83-56; and in Group B, France (1-1) easily downed Mozambique (0-2) 89-45, and Turkey (2-0) defeated Canada (1-1) 55-44.
Teams finishing No. 1 in their respective pools advance directly to the quarterfinals, while teams finishing No. 2 and No. 3 in each pool will be seeded and compete on Oct. 1 for the right to continue to the medal round. The No. 4 finishing teams conclude their World Championship play. The quarterfinals will be held Oct. 3, semifinals on Oct. 4 and the gold and bronze medal games will be contested on Oct. 5. Game times for the medal rounds will be announced by FIBA at a later date.
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 99-21 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 got 30 points off the bench and dished out 24 assists on its 35 made baskets … the U.S. shot 49.3 percent (35-71 FGs) for the game, while holding Serbia to 32.9 percent (24-73 FGs) … while the fouls ended up pretty much even, 20 called on the USA and 19 called on Serbia, the USA was 15-of-18 (.833) from the free throw line compared to Serbia’s 20-of-21 (.952) from the line.