USA Downs Canada 84-68 in Exhibition
Playing Canada in exhibition for the second time in the past week, the USA Women’s National Team earned an 84-68 win on Saturday afternoon in Antibes, France.
An 11-0 run that began with the USA’s last points of the first quarter and stretched into the second period gave the USA a 13-point lead early on and control of the game.
In the win, the USA was led by A’ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces), who scored 14 points, including 10 in the third quarter. The USA also received 13 points and three blocks from Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury) and 10 points from Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), both of whom recently joined the team in France after playing in the WNBA playoffs. Further, 10 of the USA’s 11 players put points on the board.
“It was a very physical game,” said USA head coach Dawn Staley (South Carolina). “I thought our players stayed engaged. They were able to adjust to the type of officiating that was happening out there, especially in the second half. We used a lot of players to make an impact on the game. We needed that. It’s a hot gym, and we’re going to need that for the rest of the weekend. Hopefully we’re going to be able to continue to spread the minutes around and get the results that we need.”
Canada made several runs throughout, but could come no closer than eight points in the second half, and each time the USA pushed its advantage back to double digits.
The USA earned its first exhibition win over Canada on Sept. 8 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, which was a 74-68, come-from-behind victory.
“It was a lot different,” Wilson said of the USA second game against Canada. “They were more physical with us. The refs were letting us play, so the energy was definitely different. We came in with a mindset that we’re here to win, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to win. We stayed poised. That’s the best part about it. When you have a great group of women and they stay poised through the tough calls and tough plays, and the easy, missed shots that we could have made.”
For the game, the USA shot 41.9 percent from the field (26-62 FGs), while limiting Canada to just 30.9 percent (21-68 FGs).
The contest was close for the first quarter, which saw five lead changes and three tied scores. Led by seven points from Griner, eight U.S. scorers put up 24 points to Canada’s 20 points.
The final two points of the first period for the USA by Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks) were the start of an 11-0 run that gave the USA a 33-20 advantage 3:07 into the second quarter. From there, the USA outscored Canada 8-7 to pull ahead 41-27 at halftime.
“We knew that they were going to get after us, knew that they were going to play real hard,” Griner said. “I think we did really well – having everybody here now, me and Dee (Diana) getting into it, getting through the offense. We made real big stops and advanced the lead really well in the second and third (quarters).”
The USA defense buckled down in the second period – forcing six Canadian turnovers and limiting Canada to just 2-of-14 from the field (.143) in the quarter.
Canada made several runs in the third period, twice pulling within eight points, but each time the USA responded. Pushing its lead to as many as 16 points in the quarter, the USA took a 67-54 lead at the end of three periods.
The USA increased its lead by three points, outscoring Canada 17-14, in the fourth quarter to earn the 84-68 win.
“There were a couple of things that we wanted to get done – getting off to a better start was one of those things, and I think we did that for the most part,” Taurasi said. “Overall, it was just a great effort from everyone. From the start, the bench came in and gave us great energy, kind of got that lead, and I think we just built on some things that we are going to have to get better at to beat the top teams.”
Layshia Clarendon (Connecticut Sun), Kelsey Plum (Las Vegas Aces) and Morgan Tuck (Connecticut Sun) each collected six rebounds, and Plum dished out four assists.
The USA continues its exhibition schedule against Senegal at 10:30 a.m. EDT on Sept. 16 (online stats), and host France, which is the No. 3 ranked team in the world, at 2:30 p.m. EDT on Sept. 17 (online stats).
The 2018 FIBA World Cup in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain, begins for the USA against Senegal at 1 p.m. EDT on Sept. 22, followed by China at 1 p.m. EDT on Sept. 23 and Latvia at 1 p.m. on Sept. 25. After each team plays three preliminary round games, the second and third place teams from each of the four preliminary round groups will compete in the quarterfinal qualification games on Sept. 26, while the No. 1 teams from each group will advance directly to the Sept. 28 quarterfinals. The semifinals will be contested on Sept. 29 and the finals on Sept. 30.
The USA will be in the hunt for a third-straight FIBA World Cup gold – a feat it has never before accomplished.
Including four athletes who have not yet joined the USA in Europe due to competing in the WNBA Finals, the USA roster currently stands at 16 athletes, including Kelsey Mitchell, who returned home from Washington, D.C., on Sept. 13 due to a death in the family. The official, 12-member roster will be announced prior to Sept. 22.
The USA assistant coaches are Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx, Jennifer Rizzotti of George Washington University and Dan Hughes, who after leading the Seattle Storm to a WNBA title, will join the team in Spain.