Whalen Leads Red Team To Victory In The USA Basketball Women’s National Team Red-White Scrimmage
• VIDEO: Diggins Reverse Layup
• VIDEO: McCoughtry Alley-Oop
Four years ago, Lindsay Whalen was one of the newer players trying to play her way on to the USA women’s national basketball team.
Now she’s one of the veterans battling the rookies for a spot.
Whalen scored 15 points and had 11 assists to lead the Red team to a 95-87 victory in the USA Basketball Women’s National Team’s Red-White intrasquad scrimmage Thursday night at the Bob Carpenter Center on the University of Delaware’s campus.
“In four years I’ve kind of gone from one of the younger ones to one of the vets,” Whalen (32) said. “I’m just trying to provide some leadership and help out with whatever I can. When you’re unselfish and make the extra pass, it’s pretty easy to get things going. I thought that was a big thing for us, just making the extra pass, finding the open player was key. ”
Nnemkadi Ogwumike paced the White team with a game-high 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Angel McCoughtry was the Red team’s leading scorer with 16.
The game was one of the last chances to impress head coach Geno Auriemma and the selection committee ahead of the first round of cuts from the 24-player roster ahead of the 2014 FIBA World Championship. Auriemma has said some decisions will occur after Thursday’s game and more will come after a practice and scrimmage with the Canadian National Team in Bridgeport, Connecticut on Sept.15.
Whalen hit a jumper to break a 76-76 tie in the fourth quarter before Kayla McBride followed by nailing a three on the next possession for a five-point lead. Whalen then buried another jumper from almost the identical spot and, after another stop on defense, Maya Moore broke through the lane for a layup and a 85-76 lead with 3:19 remaining.
The White team never led until Tina Charles scored with 1:49 left in the third quarter to put it on top 61-59. It had to rally from behind for the majority of the first half after falling behind 14-2 thanks to 12 unanswered points from the Red team.
“The last five minutes, the Red turned it up more, but it definitely got intense,” Charles said. “You never want to get complacent. You never want to think you have arrived when you’re trying out for a team and I think that stuff is what keeps everyone motivated and keeps you going.”
For the players and staff, the most memorable part of the game was the halftime ceremony.
As part of the team’s “Hoops for Troops” movement, the players and military personnel were called out on to the floor to be honored by the crowd. There, the military members gave each player and coach a pair of dog tags and the athletes and coaches in turn gave the service members a special military coin.
Auriemma said events like that are what make USA basketball so special. The team and the 2,598 fans in attendance also participated in a moment of silence to remember the 13th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
“By October 5 this will all be over for us,” Auriemma said. “But I think days like today show our players that it’s never over. Once you make that commitment, to be a part of the national team, it lasts forever.”
After the game, all the players were sporting their dog tags around their necks.
The ceremony capped a week where the team trained at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and interacted with the midshipmen during lunch on Tuesday and outside of practice.
“We’re all very excited about our dog tags and really this whole week,” Sue Bird said. “It’s been a unique opportunity and overall it’s been a lot of fun.”
McBride and Jantel Lavender each had 12 points for the Red team while Chiney Ogwumike chipped in 10.
Charles was the second-leading scorer for the White team with 18. Skylar Diggins scored 12 points and Breanna Stewart, the reigning Naismith Player of the Year, was also in double figures with 10.
“One thing that I love about playing for USA basketball is obviously it’s a collection of great players but we’re all really unselfish,” said Bird, who had seven points and five assists for the White team. “There’s not a player out there that’s trying to make a play for their self. That’s something that coach Auriemma believes in. It’s a perfect fit because everyone out there is just trying to make the right play.”