Next Up: USA National Team to Play Exhibition Tournament in France
After a successful, nine-day training camp spanning three cities, the USA Basketball Women’s National Team is focusing on a three-game exhibition tournament in Antibes, France. The squad opens with a rematch against Canada on Sept. 15 (10:30 a.m. EDT), followed by a Sept. 16 (10:30 a.m. EDT) contest against Senegal -- the team the U.S. opens 2018 FIBA World Cup play against six days later. On Sept. 17 (2:30 p.m. EDT), the Americans cap the tournament against host France, which is the No. 3 team in the world.
“These are the types of tournaments that are good leading into the Worlds,” said USA head coach Dawn Staley. “The teams that are there, Senegal, Canada and France, will all pose different challenges for us. The good thing about it is, we’ll get a couple of practices under our belt with 12 players. It’s hard to prep 14, 15 players. It’s hard to get them into a game. So, I think it’ll be more like what we’ll see as far as rotations. Although we’re still looking to fill a couple of spots on the roster, it gives us a great opportunity to play a lot of different people for more minutes than we’ve played over the past week.”
USA vs. Canada
The two teams met on Sept. 8 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where the USA rallied to overcome a 16-point deficit in taking a 74-68 victory. However, the two teams will look vastly different in Antibes. First, six of the USA athletes who competed in Bridgeport are no longer training with the team, including Kelsey Mitchell, who was one of 16 finalists named to the team but did not travel to France due to a family emergency. Second, the American roster will see the addition of Olympic and World Cup champions Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury. And finally, Canada’s roster will have a change as well. Kayla Alexander, a 6-foot-4 center who plays for the Indiana Fever, was injured in the Sept. 8 game and had to withdraw from the team.
In the first meeting, the USA was paced in the win by a double-double from 6-foot-5 forward A’ja Wilson, who notched 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Canada’s 6-foot guard Kia Nurse poured in 22 points for her side.
USA vs. Senegal
Not much is known yet about Senegal’s team that will be competing in the tournament. However, the world’s 17th-ranked women’s program 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.
USA vs. France
Ranked No. 3 in the world and No. 2 in Europe, France has been steadily improving its national team program. The 2012 Olympic silver medalist, France advanced to the 2016 bronze medal game, but lost to Serbia, and has placed among the top half of finishers in the past four World Cups.
The last time these two nations played in France was Sep. 21, 2014, in Paris, prior to the 2014 FIBA World Cup. After leading by as many as 18 points, the USA Women’s National Team lost to a resilient France team that battled its way back to lead 71-67 with 26.4 seconds remaining and then made 3-of-4 free throws down the stretch to top the USA in the 2014 France International Tournament.
Tina Charles, who finished as the USA’s leading scorer with 12 points that night, remembers it well.
“We were in Paris,” Charles said of the exhibition loss to France. “We had a lot of players, and the coaches were trying to get a lot of players out there. Sometimes, you are shoring up the rotation, like we did against Canada, in order to come with the victory. But, France is a good team. We have a lot of respect for every team that we play against. We don’t underestimate anyone, and we know they are going to bring their best.”
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