USA Enters Medal Round At 2014 FIBA World Championship
After three decisive preliminary-round wins, the 2014 USA Basketball Women’s World Championship is on to the must-win medal round at the 2014 FIBA World Championship.
Interestingly, the USA, the No. 1 seed out of Group D, will meet at 9:15 p.m. (2:15 p.m. EDT, NBA TV and ESPN3/WatchESPN) on Oct. 3 the only team to which it has lost (76-72) thus far in 2014 – albeit in exhibition play – France (3-1), the No. 2 seed out of Group B and the winner of yesterday’s quarterfinal play-in game against Brazil.
The 76-72 exhibition loss came back on Sept. 21, when the U.S. roster included 16 finalists for the team, and Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury) had yet to arrive.
Since then, the USA not only added Griner and finalized its 12-member roster, it has recorded three wins at the FIBA World Championship by an average of 42.0 points per game.
“Yeah, just one player makes a difference – Brittney Griner, her length, just her athleticism, big difference,” said Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), who will be playing in the gym where she plays during the WNBA offseason with Fenerbahce. “Not even that, even without her, we are a different team. We didn’t play like we know how to play. We were sluggish, lazy. We’ll be ready tomorrow.”
The FIBA World Championship from 1998 through 2010 included a second-round that seeded teams for the quarterfinals, meaning teams had six games of preparation before entering single-elimination play. Not so in 2014. This year the No. 1 seeds from the four preliminary round groups automatically advanced to the quarterfinals, while the No. 2 and No. 3 teams had to compete in play-in games, with the winners advancing to the quarterfinals. That means the USA, should it win out as it hopes to, will have just six games overall, and only three games played before entering single-elimination.
“I like the old format where we had six games before the medal round,” said USA head coach Geno Auriemma. “It gave us more of an opportunity to be together and play games. This new format I don’t think helps us as much as the other format, but it is what it is. We have to get good real quick, and I think we’re going to be okay.
“We have a really good team,” Auriemma added. “We have a really good group of kids. They communicate well with each other, they play hard, they’re very respectful of each other’s abilities. We don’t have anybody out there trying to prove that they’re better than anybody else. It’s been a great group to coach so far, and I’m looking forward to a great weekend.”
Take a look below at the seven teams, along with the USA, that remain in contention for the FIBA World Championship gold medal.
Winners to meet in the Oct. 4 medal semifinal:
Australia (3-0) vs. Canada (2-2)
USA (3-0) vs. France (3-1)
Winners to meet in the Oct. 4 medal semifinal:
Spain (3-0) vs. China (2-2)
Turkey (3-0) vs. Serbia (3-1)
FIBA World Ranking: 2.
Australia, which owns a 4-3 advantage over Canada in World Championship play, defeated Cuba (90-57), South Korea (87-54) and Belarus (87-45) to take the top spot in Group C and advance directly to the quarterfinals. The Aussies own an overall record of 63-40 (.612) in its 14 World Championship appearances, which includes its 3-0 start in 2014.
Australia’s best finish at this event came in 2006 as it earned a perfect 9-0 record to take gold in Brazil. Australia also finished with the bronze medal in 1998 and 2002, while the most recent World Championship saw the Aussies eliminated in the quarterfinals by host Czech Republic, and they finished off the podium in fifth place.
Australia features a pair of recently crowned WNBA champions in Penny Taylor and Erin Phillips. Thus far in Turkey, Taylor is averaging 14.3 points and 4.0 rebounds a game, while Phillips has dished out a team-high 6.0 assists per game. Also aiding in the team’s 88.0 ppg. output are Rachel Jarry (11.3 ppg.), Belinda Snell (10.7 ppg.) and Marianna Tolo (9.7 ppg.)
FIBA World Ranking: 9.
Canada, which is 3-4 all-time against Australia at the World Championship, finished Group B behind Turkey and France, and earned its quarterfinals berth by virtue of a 91-71 drubbing of Czech Republic in its Oct. 1 play-in game.
Opening World Championship play with a 69-54 victory over Mozambique, Canada lost to host Turkey 55-44 and was edged by France, 63-59, to close out preliminary play.
Canada owns an all-time 35-38 (.479) record in 10 FIBA World Championships, including its 2-2 slate this year. Canada has medaled twice at this event, earning bronze medals in 1979 and 1986.
Canada has averaged 65.8 ppg. through its first four games and has spread the points around. Kim Goucher leads the team in scoring (9.3 ppg.) and rebounding (4.8 rpg.), while Katherine Plouffe (8.8 ppg.) and Tamara Tatham (7.8 ppg.) round out the team’s top three scorers. Kia Nurse, a freshman at the University of Connecticut this year, has started all four games and is averaging 6.3 ppg.
FIBA World Ranking: 8.
China, which defeated Angola 65-39, dropped two preliminary round games -- 87-56 to the USA and 65-63 to Serbia -- and therefore was forced to battle in the Oct. 1 play-in round, where it narrowly escaped Belarus and advanced to the medal round with a 72-67 victory.
China is 36-41 (.468) all-time in its 11 (including 2014) World Championship appearances and captured the bronze medal in its first World Championship in 1983 and a silver medal in 1994.
Averaging 64.0 ppg. over its four games in Turkey, China is being led by Ting Shao (11.8 ppg.) in the scoring column and Wen Lu (6.8 ppg., 5.5 rpg.) and Hongpin Huang (5.8 ppg., 5.5 rpg.) on the boards.
FIBA World Ranking: 4.
France advanced to the quarterfinals after winning its play-in game, 61-48 over Brazil. The team opened preliminary play with a narrow 50-48 loss to host Turkey, before closing out pool play with an 89-45 victory over Mozambique and a close 63-59 defeat of Canada.
In France's four games in Turkey, the team has been led by forward Sandrine Gruda (15.0 ppg., 8.0 rpg.) and guard Celine Dumerc (5.8 ppg., 5.6 apg.), both of whom also suited up for France in the 2012 Olympics.
France owns an even 35-35 all-time record in World Championship games (including 2014) and its best finish came in 1975 when it captured the silver medal. The 2012 Olympic silver medalists finished in sixth place at the 2010 FIBA World Championship.
FIBA World Ranking: 29.
This year marks Serbia’s first FIBA World Championship appearance, and the Serbs are making the most of their debut.
After defeating Angola 102-42 in its first game, Serbia gave the USA a run for its money before the Americans pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 94-74 win. Serbia, however, bounced back and fought to the end against China for a 65-63 victory.
Finishing second in pool play, Serbia then went on to oust Cuba 86-79 in the Oct. 1 play-in game to advance to the medal quarterfinals.
Serbia, which averaged 81.8 ppg. in its first four games, is being led by scoring machine Ana Dabovic, who scored 22 points in the first half against the USA and is averaging 15.8 ppg. and 2.3 apg. through Serbia’s four games. Jelena Milovanovic (14.8 ppg., 5.0 rpg.) and Milica Dabovic (11.8 ppg.) round out Serbia’s top three scoring threats.
FIBA World Ranking: 6.
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 now lists a 28-19 record in six World Championships, including its perfect 3-0 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, which has seen the team average 74.7 ppg., is Sancho Lyttle, who is also the leading scorer at the tournament and is averaging 17.0 ppg. and 13.0 rpg. Alba Torrens follows with 12.7 ppg., while Anna Cruz is averaging 12.3 ppg.
FIBA World Ranking: 13.
Host Turkey is competing in its first FIBA World Championship in history after its national team placed fifth in its first Olympic appearance in 2012. So far, the Turkish squad has not disappointed its fans. After nailing a late go-ahead 3-pointer for a 50-48 victory over France to open the tournament, Turkey defeated Canada 55-44 and followed that with a 64-54 win over Mozambique for a perfect 3-0 record and automatic berth to the quarterfinals.
The team, which is averaging 56.3 ppg., is being led by Lara Sanders (11.3 ppg., 5.7 rpg.), Nevriye Yilmaz (8.3 ppg.) and Isil Alben (5.0 ppg., 5.7 rpg.).
Expect Fenerbache Arena to be packed and for a loud and partisan turnout for Turkey’s games.