Parker Produces Triple-Double, Delle Donne Goes For 21 Points As USA Women’s National Team Defeats Uni Girona 84-52
Following two days of practice, the 2015 USA Basketball Women’s National Team (1-0) opened its first game of its 2015 European Tour on a 6-0 run and never trailed en route to an 84-52 victory over host Uni Girona on Sunday night in Girona, Spain.
The USA was paced in the win by 21 points from Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky), who was playing in her first USA National Team game, and Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), who scored 17 points. However, it was a triple-double from Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks) that punctuated the victory. Parker connected on 7-of-11 field goals for 14 points, and produced game-highs of 10 rebounds and 12 assists to go with two blocked shots and three steals.
“We’ve got a great group,” said USA National Team and University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma, who since being selected to coach the USA Basketball Women’s National Team in 2009 has piloted the USA National Team to an overall 23-0 record and gold medals at the 2010 and 2014 FIBA World Championships and the 2012 Olympic Games. “They love playing together. They’re very, very competitive. They pick things up quickly. They shared the ball and you saw Candace Parker with 12 assists. You’ve got some of the best scorers in the WNBA and they’re looking to make plays for other people. I think that kind of attitude is why we are who we are.”
“I didn’t know I was even close to a triple-double,” said Parker. “This is my first one. I’ve always been really close, but never got it.”
In addition to Delle Donne, McCoughtry and Parker’s double-digit scoring efforts, Sue Bird (Seattle Storm) posted 10 points and dished out six assists, while Delle Donne and Stefanie Dolson (Washington Mystics) pulled down eight rebounds each.
The USA squad will train on Oct. 5 in Platja D’Aro, Spain, before traveling to Italy to face the Italian National Team on Oct. 7 in Rome and the Dike Naples professional team on Oct. 8 in Naples. The tour concludes with a game against 2015 EuroLeague champion USK Prague on Oct. 9 in Prague, Czech Republic.
Delle Donne opened the game with a bucket at 9:11, and the USA went up 6-0 at 7:55 and held a double-digit lead, 12-2, with 4:27 to play in the first quarter. Both teams scored 10 points apiece through the end of the first period, which ended with the U.S. up 22-12.
“It was so much fun,” said Delle Donne, who won gold at the junior level with the 2011 USA World University Games Team. “Probably the most fun I've had playing the game of basketball with all these incredible players elevating everybody's game. It's a blast and the fans were awesome. It was just a great experience.
“I couldn’t believe the game was sold out for an exhibition game,” Delle Donne added. “It was amazing to have that type of support.”
Uni Girona, which won the Spanish League title last season and will compete in the EuroLeague this year for the first time in history, featured former U.S. college standouts Chelsea Gray (Duke) and Ashley Paris (Oklahoma), but was outmatched by the American squad and by halftime trailed 46-25.
The U.S. outscored its host 18-14 in the third quarter and 20-13 in the fourth.
Parker had 12 of her 14 points in the first half, but only had two boards and four assists in 15 minutes of play.
“Elena Delle Donne is just Elena Delle Donne,” said Auriemma. “She’s one of the most gifted players in the world. She’s just never been in the position to do this. And you could tell, she might have been a little nervous, who knows, but she missed a lot of shots that she normally makes very easily. But, having her and Candace out there on the floor at the same time, they’re fun to watch. They were really fun to watch tonight.”
The Americans shot 52.2 percent from the field, while holding Uni Girona to just 32.8 percent of its field goals. After edging Girona 20-19 on the boards in the first half, the USA finished the game with a 41-31 rebounding advantage, but was edged on the offensive glass, 10-9. The USA scored 14 points off of 13 turnovers, outscored Uni Girona 50-24 in the paint and 30-17 on the fast break.
After losing the battle of the boards on the offensive end in the first half 5-3, One of Auriemma’s focal points at halftime was to get better on the offensive glass.
“I thought we had a little better effort going to the boards. We didn’t miss a lot of shots, but I thought we did a better job of keeping the ball alive and giving ourselves a couple more possessions. That’s always something that coaches harp on, because it’s not easy. Your tendency when the shot goes up is to get back on defense. It’s hard to run in there and get knocked around and try to get an offensive rebound and I though we did a really good job with it.
“You can’t take a lot out of this game, but you can take enough things that when we go to practice tomorrow, we can build on the effort that we had, the way we executed our offense a lot of times, how we got contributions from a lot of people,” concluded Auriemma. “So, all in all I was pretty happy.”
Auriemma is being assisted through the 2016 Olympic Games by DePaul University’s Doug Bruno, the Minnesota Lynx’ Cheryl Reeve and University of South Carolina’s Dawn Staley. Reeve has coached the Minnesota Lynx into the 2015 WNBA Finals and therefore is not on the sideline this year in Europe. University of Hartford head coach Jennifer Rizzotti is serving as a court coach during the USA’s European Tour.
The USA squad is using this tour as preparations for the 2016 Olympic Games, which will be held Aug. 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
U.S. Olympic women’s basketball teams have earned a record seven gold medals, one silver medal and one bronze medal, and are 58-3 all-time in Olympic competition. The 2016 U.S. team will enter Rio riding a 41-game Olympic winning streak that dates back to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics bronze medal game.
Since the inception of the 1995-96 USA Basketball Women’s National Team program, the USA National Team, in addition to its record five-straight Olympic gold medals, has captured four FIBA World Championship gold medals, one FIBA World Championship bronze medal and one FIBA Americas Championship gold medal, while compiling a remarkable 86-1 record for a .989 winning percentage in those events. Further, USA National Teams in exhibition contests since 1995 boast of a 186-15 record (.925 winning percentage).