2018 FIBA World Cup Group D Primer
The FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup tips off on Sept. 22. Get to know a little bit about the USA’s Group D preliminary round opponents, which include China, Latvia and Senegal.
Ranked No. 10 in the world and No. 2 in Asia, claimed the 2017 FIBA Asia Championship bronze medal to qualify for its 10th FIBA World Cup. China has qualified for every World Cup since 1983 and in that time also has advanced to play in nearly every Olympic Games, missing only the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
The USA owns a 5-0 record against China in World Cup play, the most recent meeting was an 87-56 U.S. victory in 2014.
Winners of a pair of World Cup medals, bronze in 1983 and silver in 1994, and two Olympic medals, bronze in 1984 and silver in 1992, China finished in fourth place in 1996 and 2008. More recently, China was sixth at the 2014 World Cup and 10th in Rio.
The two nations faced off against each other in a friendly exhibition on April 26 in Seattle, and the USA came away with an 86-43 victory. China’s leading scorers with seven points apiece were 6-foot-0 forward Shao Ting and 6-foot-4 center Pan Zhenqi, a newcomer to China’s national team.
Ting, who played in the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, averaged 8.8 ppg. and a team second-best 4.3 apg. at the 2017 Asia Championship. Yueru Li, a 6-foot-7 center, was China’s leading scorer and rebounder at that event with 17.2 ppg. and 9.3 rpg. The 19-year-old Li played against the USA in Seattle and contributed four points and five rebounds and should make her senior-level debut at the 2018 World Cup.
Ranked No. 26 in the world and No. 12 in Europe, Latvia clinched its first World Cup berth after finishing sixth at the 2017 European Championship.
This marks Latvia’s second senior-level world competition after qualifying a decade ago for the 2008 Olympic Games, where the nation finished in ninth place. Led by 15 points apiece from Aija Putnina and Kristine Vitola, Latvia held off Italy 68-67 in the must-win classification semifinal game in order to advance to the fifth/sixth-place game in 2017.
In the overall competition, however, Latvia was paced by 6-foot-3 power forward Anete Steinberga, who averaged a double-double of 14.7 ppg. and 11.1 rpg. Vitola, a 6-foot-5 center, averaged 8.6 ppg. and 4.1 rpg., while 6-foot-3 forward Putnina averaged 6.4 ppg.
The USA and Latvia never have played on the world stage, but the two met in a 2008 Olympic warm-up tournament. Playing for the first time as the official, 12-member Olympic team, the USA earned an 84-74 victory behind 13 points from Sylvia Fowles.
Ranked No. 17 in the world and No. 1 in the Africa zone, Senegal earned the silver medal at the 2017 FIBA Africa Championship to claim its seventh entry to a FIBA World Cup. Senegal also has earned two Olympic berths, most recently in 2016, when it came in 12th place.
The USA and Senegal have played five times in the Olympics (1-0) and World Cups (4-0), and the U.S. has won every outing. The most recent game between the two was a 121-56 victory in the 2016 Olympics.
Senegalese veteran Astou Traore, a 6-foot-1 forward who was named MVP at the 2017 Africa Championship, poured in 21.6 ppg. and grabbed 5.6 rpg. to lead her team to silver at the event. The 37-year-old first played for Senegal at the 2005 Africa Championship and has played in two previous World Cups and the 2016 Olympic Games.
Mame Marie Sy-Diop, a 6-foot-2 forward, averaged 8.5 ppg., 4.6 rpg. and 3.6 apg. as Senegal’s second-leading threat at the 2017 championship.
The USA is ranked No. 1 in the world and No. 1 in the Americas Zone. Winners of the past six Olympic gold medals and four of the past five World Cup gold medals, the USA will have a bullseye on its back as it goes for its 10th FIBA World Cup gold medal in Tenerife.
The USA will play Senegal on Sept. 22 (1 p.m. EDT), China on Sept. 23 (1 p.m. EDT) and Latvia on Sept. 25 (1 p.m. EDT).
In all, the USA owns a record nine gold medals, one silver medal and two bronze medals in FIBA World Cup play, while compiling an all-time 103-21 record at the event. In 2014, the most recent World Cup, the U.S. took the gold medal, while Spain captured silver and Australia won bronze.
Led by Hall of Famer Dawn Staley, head coach at the University of South Carolina, the USA team will begin training Sept. 3 in Columbia, South Carolina. The team has not yet been announced, but if the past is any indication, the team should feature a nice mix of athletes from veteran leaders to rising stars playing in their first senior-level World Cup.