USA Women's National Team Takes On Australia In Final Tuneup
The schedule suggests it is merely an exhibition game. One final tuneup for the USA Basketball Women’s National Team on its path to the Olympics.
The final score will not mean anything as far winning a medal in Rio. But when the U.S. collides with Australia today in a battle of the top two teams in the world at Madison Square Garden (4 p.m. EDT on NBA TV and Facebook Live), it will provide a firm barometer as to where each team stands in the latter stages of training camp.
“Obviously, we’ve got a tough game (today),” USA head coach Geno Auriemma (Connecticut) said. “We’re playing a team that physically, and mentally and talent-wise comes closest to matching us of any team we play, and we’ve got our hands full. So, we just want to see how we compete and where we are in this short period of time. I don’t know that we’re going to be at our best. It’s hard to do that right now. But I want to make sure that we get a lot done, and I want to see how some of the young guys that have not been in this situation much handle it. So, I’m kind of looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a hell of a game.”
Canada and France will square-off at 1:30 p.m. (EDT).
The U.S. defeated Australia 86-73 in the semifinals in London in 2012. It also defeated Australia in the gold medal game in Sydney in 2000, in Athens in 2004 and in China in 2008.
The teams are the favorites to meet in the gold medal game in Rio. Australia is led by guards Leilani Mitchell and Erin Phillips, forward Penny Taylor and center Liz Cambage.
“USA … Powerhouse in basketball for men and women,” Cambage said. “I’ve never played at Madison Square Garden, so it’s a dream of mine. But, you know, these are just practice games. We’ve got to go out, focus on ourselves and do what we need to do. It’s going to be a tough one, but we’re feeling good. We’re playing good.”
Said U.S forward Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever), “I think for us it’s a game that we have to come in with the right mindset. It’s the last one on our four-game tour, so just making sure we finish with a bang.”
How important is this game? Auriemma said he installed a game plan during practice Saturday and identified a few things he wants to get accomplished against Australia.
“Coach talks about it all the time. We can either not care and it not mean anything, or we can go and play basketball,” said U.S. guard Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury). “So we’re going to go play basketball.”
The U.S., which will practice in Houston Tuesday before heading to Brazil, has defeated the USA Select Team, France and Canada in its first three exhibition games. The finale purposely was scheduled against Australia, and the U.S will definitely find out a great deal about itself today.
“It doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of who’s going to win a gold medal, or a silver medal or a bronze medal,” Taurasi said. “But it means something to us to know where we’re at. Because we know they’re one of the best teams in the world. They have players that have played at the highest level and beaten people at the highest level, and we have the ultimate respect for them. So, we know it’s going to be a battle. No matter what the score is, it’s going to be a battle, and that’s something that I think will be good for us and them, probably.”