Gold Medal Game Preview: USA vs. Spain
The USA Basketball Women's World Championship Team, defending Olympic and FIBA World Championship gold medalist, will face Spain in the gold medal game of the 2014 FIBA World Championship. Ranked 6th in the world, Spain captured its first medal (bronze) in World Championship play in 2010, but did not qualify for the 2012 Olympics. To follow the action, watch the game live (2:15 p.m. EDT) on ESPN2 or NBA TV and follow the USA Basketball Twitter account for in-game updates.
After capturing an 82-70 victory over Australia on Saturday night, the USA Basketball World Championship Team is back in the gold medal game for the 10th time in FIBA World Championship history and is looking to capture its ninth gold medal at the event.
Defending FIBA World Champions, the USA women rolled through pool play with a perfect 3-0 record to advance directly to the quarterfinals where it defeated France 94-72 before taking down then-undefeated Australia in the Oct. 4 semifinals. In preliminary action, the U.S. opened play with an 87-56 victory over China, then surged past Serbia in the second half for a 94-74 victory and closed pool play with a record-setting 119-44 win over Angola.
In its five games thus far, the United States is averaging a tournament-best 95.2 points a game, while holding opponents to just 63.2 points for a whopping 32-point scoring margin. Further, the USA has outrebounded its first four opponents by a margin of 24.2 per game and dished out 22.8 assist to opponents’ 10.2 assists a game. The USA has shot 54.2 percent from the field and 44.4 from 3-point range, while limiting opponents to 32.6 percent overall and 23.4 from beyond the arc.
With the U.S. already assured of a medal, Sue Bird at the end of the night will be FIBA’s only female athlete with four World Championship medals. Additionally, if the American women defend their title, Bird will be the most decorated athlete, male or female, in FIBA World Championship history. Only two others have three gold medals -- a pair of women from the Soviet Union’s 1959, 1964 and 1967 gold-medal run -- while the three four-time men’s medalists have no more than two gold medals apiece.
Maya Moore is leading the USA’s high-powered offense, averaging 14.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists a contest. Further, Brittney Griner is averaging 12.6 ppg., 6.6 rpg. and has 12 blocked shots; Tina Charles is scoring at a clip of 10.8 ppg. and leads the U.S. on the glass with 8.4 rpg.; and Diana Taurasi rounds out the top four scorers with 9.4 ppg. and is tied with Moore as the team’s leading passer with 3.8 apg.
Bronze medal finishers at the 2010 FIBA World Championship, Spain rolled through its preliminary-round play with a perfect 3-0 record to advance directly to the quarterfinals.
Knocking off Japan 74-50 to open play, Spain then beat Brazil 83-56 and downed Czech Republic 67-43. Spain went on to defeat China 71-55 in quarterfinals action and pulled away from host Turkey late in the semifinals for a 66-56 victory.
Spain now lists a 30-19 record in six World Championships, including its perfect 5-0 slate in Turkey. Its best finish -- and only medal -- came in 2010 as it captured the bronze medal in the Czech Republic.
Leading Spain’s charge is Sancho Lyttle, who also is the leading scorer at the tournament and is averaging 18.6 ppg. and 11.6 rpg. Alba Torrens follows with 16.6 ppg., while Anna Cruz is Spain’s third-leading scorer, averaging 8.4 ppg.
Spain in its first five games is averaging 72.2 points and 43.0 rebounds per game, while holding its opponents to 52.0 points and 34.8 rebounds a contest. Further, Spain is shooting 43.7 percent from the field and 30.9 percent from 3-point range, while forcing opponents into shooting 35.2 percent from the field and 22.9 percent from afar.
LAST TIME OUT: The last meeting between the USA and Spain was four years ago in the 2010 FIBA World Championship semifinal contest.
After opening the game shooting 5-of-5 from the field to ignite an 11-1 run, the USA steadily improved its advantage throughout to easily secure a 106-70 win over Spain. The game featured points from all 12 players and earned the USA its place in the 2010 FIBA World Championship gold medal game.
Tamika Catchings, who was 3-of-4 from 3-point, led four U.S. players in double figures with 14 points. That was followed by Sylvia Fowles with 13 points and a game-high six rebounds, Angel McCoughtry with 11 points and three steals and Taurasi with 11 points and four assists.
Additionally, Bird dished out a game-high five assists and three players just missed double digits, including Tina Charles with nine points.
UP NEXT: The winner of tonight’s gold medal contest will earn a direct berth to the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. Should the U.S. not defend its title, it would have two additional opportunities to punch its ticket to Rio. First up is the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship, hosted by Canada in Edmonton, and the second would be the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (date and site TBD).