USA Women’s National Team Caps European Tour By Defeating Defending EuroLeague Champion ZVVZ USK Prague 85-53
Prague, Czech Republic
Behind a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds from Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks), the 2015 USA Basketball Women’s National Team (4-0) concluded its four-game European tour with a 85-53 victory over reigning EuroLeague champion ZVVZ USK Prague on Saturday night in Prague, Czech Republic.
In all, five U.S. players scored in double digits. In addition to Parker, who shot 9-of-15 from the field, the USA was paced by 15 points from Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), while Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky), Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury) and Breanna Stewart (University of Connecticut) contributed 10 points apiece.
“I thought the first 15 minutes that we played in the first half was our best 15 minutes of basketball of the whole trip, against the best team that we played the whole trip,” said USA National Team head coach Geno Auriemma, who is now 61-9 all-time as a USA Basketball head coach in exhibition games and official competitions.
“After all the travel and after all the time in hotels and buses and planes, and only three practices and three shoot-arounds, for our team to come out and play the way we did against a very good team, I think that says a lot about the group that we have. It couldn't have ended on a higher note.”
“I think we all came out and played well as a team and it was a good way to end the trip,” said Parker. “When we play together and we move the ball and play really good defense, there are very few teams that are going to be able to deal with that for 40 minutes. It's just about persistence. We let down our guard a little bit going into halftime, but we were able to come back and play well in the second half.”
In a contest in which the Americans never trailed, McCoughtry put up the first points 45 seconds into the game on a feed from Parker. Following a made free throw on the other end, Parker hit a pair of 3s in a 10-4 spurt that upped the score to 12-5.
2007 USA Basketball U21 World Championship Team gold medalist Kia Vaughn (Washington Mystics), who finished out the night with a team-high 13 points, narrowed the gap to five points, 12-7, at 6:06. But again Parker went to work and hit a jumper followed by a layup and when Griner scored at 3:44 the USA’s lead was in double digits for the first time of the night, 18-7. However, three turnovers allowed the hosts back into the game and by the end of the first quarter, the USA’s lead was 23-17.
After a 6-4 spurt to open the second quarter and holding an eight-point, 29-21, edge, Parker and Stewart scored the game’s next 11 points as the U.S. took a comfortable 40-21 lead with 6:00 to play before halftime. Prague would not back down, and capitalized on miscues by the Americans over the waning minutes. Prague, which hit a buzzer-beater to close its 11-2 run, cut the USA’s lead to 10 points at the midway point, 42-32.
“(Coach told us at halftime) just to take care of the ball,” said McCaughtry. “I think we were just over passing a little bit. In the second half we fixed that.”
After picking up her second foul 3:35 into the game and sitting for the remainder of the half, Delle Donne came out of the locker room on fire and drained a 3-pointer at 9:27 and by the 5:11 mark in the quarter had eight of the USA’s 22 points in the quarter. In all, the U.S. outscored USK Prague 22-8 in the third period, which included two 7-0 runs, and owned a 66-40 advantage with 10 minutes to play.
Never letting up in the fourth quarter, the USA went on to win the last period 21-13.
“The last five minutes of the first half we weren't so good,” said Auriemma. “It got away from us a little bit. But then we came out in the second half and played 20 minutes of really, really, really good basketball.”
The USA outscored ZVVZ USK Prague 48-20 in the paint, 12-3 on second chances, 13-9 on the fast break and 28-16 off the bench.
Shooting over 50 percent from the field for the fourth time in as many games, the USA connected on a tour second-best 53.6 percent (37-69 FGs) from the floor, while holding the home side to just 36.2 percent (21-58 FGs), the second-highest a team shot against the Americans in Europe.
The USA, which had 16 steals, including three apiece from McCoughtry, Parker and Danielle Robinson (San Antonio Stars), who plays for USK Prague in the winters, scored 14 points off of 23 turnovers.
“This was a really good mix of players because there are a few of us who are Olympians and who have done this, but there were a lot of young players who had never done one of these training camps with the USA National Team,” said three-time Olympic gold medalist Sue Bird (Seattle Storm),” With an Olympics coming up, it presents a lot of opportunity for them and a chance for them to play with us, for us to play with them and see how it went. Overall it was really good.”
The USA’s four-game European tour featured victories over EuroLeague team Uni Girona (84-52) in Spain, the Italian national team (79-66) and EuroCup pro club Dike Naples (86-50) in Italy and tonight’s win over USK Prague in Czech Republic.
“Overall, I thought the trip was great,” added Auriemma. “It was great because like I said earlier, you have to be able to give your time to USA Basketball. A lot of players choose not to, for whatever reason, it's their prerogative. I'm really thankful that these players gave their time to be here. And to wrap it up the way we wrapped up was great.
“As General Dempsey said, we wanted to make sure it mattered. And you know what? When you look at the end of this trip, it mattered.”
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 is coaching the Minnesota Lynx in the 2015 WNBA Finals and therefore is not with the team in Europe. University of Hartford head coach Jennifer Rizzotti served as a court coach during the USA’s European Tour.
The USA squad used this tour to help prepare for the 2016 Olympic Games, which will be held Aug. 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Members of the USA National Team will participate in a training camp (dates and site TBD) in the spring, and gather in late July for its final 2016 Olympic preparations.
USA Basketball Women’s National Team
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).