Defense The Story As USA Women Defeat Canada 83-43
There is not one player on the USA Basketball National Team that does not possess the capability of being the leading scorer on any given day. This is a collection of some of the most gifted offensive players in the world.
However, when it comes to winning an Olympic gold medal, this collection of stars knows fully that it takes much more than a potent offensive game to achieve ultimate success. It takes unselfishness. It takes a desire to play defense.
The U.S. assembled a stout defensive performance Friday in an impressive 83-43 victory over Canada before 6,371 at Webster Bank Arena. It produced 12 steals and forced 25 turnovers, including four shot clock violations and an eight-second violation.
“Once you play with the U.S. Team you’re not worried about shots. You’re not worried about touches,” U.S. guard Diana Taurasi said. “You’re worried about other things that you probably don’t worry about on your WNBA team. Like denying the wing. Bumping the cutter. Making sure you box out. All those things are what’s going to keep you on the court because we all can score. It’s those things that are going to take us to that next level. And it’s always been like that since I played in 2004 with Lisa (Leslie) and Sheryl (Swoopes) and Dawn (Staley).”
The game featured a tender pregame moment in which numerous children representing the Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors (TAPS) were honored. They were first recognized at midcourt before exchanging coins, which commemorate the loss of a relative in combat, with the U.S. players. They then remained on the court during the playing of the Canadian and United States national anthems.
The coins given to the youngsters by the USA players had the USA Basketball logo on the front and the logos of the five branches of the United States Armed Forces on the back. TAPS is part of USA Basketball’s Hoops for the Troops program.
Australia (2-0) defeated France 76-67 in the first game of the doubleheader. Liz Cambage had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Opals.
The U.S. (3-0) will face Australia Sunday at Madison Square Garden in its final exhibition game (4 p.m.).
This marked the second time the U.S. and Canada have met in Bridgeport. The U.S. defeated Canada 76-51 Sept. 15, 2014 prior to the FIBA World Championship in Istanbul.
Eight of the 12 players on the U.S. roster had at least one steal against Canada Friday. Tamika Catchings had three. Brittney Griner and Maya Moore each had two.
“I thought defensively we were about as good as we can be given the short amount of work that we’ve done,” USA coach Geno Auriemma said. “And that kind of led to a bunch of other things. And when you have a group of players like this that, for the most part, are going to play hard, they’re going to compete every possession. That’s what’s going to be needed. That’s what’s going to be necessary to win a gold medal.
“It’s going to take whatever the effort was (Friday) and then maybe more because, for instance, Sunday’s game is going to be a little more difficult than (Friday’s) game. And that’s good for us. The more difficult games we play before we get to Rio the better.”
Taurasi led the U.S. with 14 points. Elena Delle Donne added 12 points, two rebounds and two assists. Lindsay Whalen finished with 11 points and two assists, while Angel McCoughtry had eight points, a game-high seven rebounds and two assists.
The U.S. asserted itself defensively from the outset. Leading 5-4 with 5:34 left in the first quarter, it scored the next 10 points to fuel a 23-2 run.
“The U.S. just does so many things defensively with their length and athleticism,” Canada coach Lisa Thomaidis. “That really changes how you want to play the game. It was evident for us. We really struggled at the offensive end to put the ball in the hoop.”
Canada went scoreless for stretches of 4:26 and 5:03, opening the game 2-of-19 shooting from the field. It missed six and seven straight shots on separate occasions, respectively, and finished the first half 7-of-27 with 10 turnovers and trailing 44-20.
“We spoke all day about the fact that they like to run a lot of offense. They like to run a lot of clock,” Delle Donne said. “So we wanted to put pressure on them to start so they didn’t have as much clock to run out. And then from there we didn’t want them to reverse the ball. We wanted them to have to play on one side of the court, which made it more difficult for them to get in any offense. So defense was huge (Friday).”
Miah-Marie Langlois led Canada with 11 points and three rebounds.