Preview: USA vs. Senegal
- Post-Practice Quotes (Sept. 21)
Multiple weeks of training camp, scrimmages and exhibition games have helped the USA Basketball Women’s National Team prepare for two unprecedented possibilities: A potential third consecutive gold medal – and tenth overall -- in the FIBA World Cup.
The USA will begin pool play in Group D on Sept. 22 at Tenerife, Spain when it meets Senegal at 1 p.m. EDT at the 3,600-seat Palacio Municipal de Deportes. The USA, ranked first in the world by FIBA, will begin the 18th World Cup with a 16-game winning streak. The USA has not been defeated since a 75-68 loss to Russia in a 2006 semifinal.
China, No. 10 in the FIBA rankings, and Latvia, No. 26, are the other teams in Group D. Each country in the 16-team field will meet its three group opponents, with four winners from the group phase advancing to the quarterfinal round on Sept. 27. Single-elimination play will begin when the second and third-place teams in each group advance to the quarterfinal play-in games on Sept. 26.
USA beat Senegal in a 109-58 exhibition victory on Sept. 16 in Antibes, France without four of its players from the official USA World Cup roster. Senegal, ranked No. 17 in the world, qualified for a seventh World Cup appearance. Khairy Sarr Oumou scored 22 points for Senegal in the game. USA assistant coach Cheryl Reeve (Minnesota Lynx) said both teams were able to get information to be used in the preliminary round.
The entire 11-person roster from the first outing is expected to represent Senegal.
"It’s a team that I think is well coached,” Reeve said of Senegal. “I watched their Africa Championship in 2017 and then watching them now, I think their coach has done a really great job. They’ve got great buy-in to what they’re doing, and they play extremely hard.”
Senegal has the 2017 Africa Championship MVP in 6-foot-1 forward Astou Traore, who helped lead the team to a silver medal with 21.6 ppg and 5.6 rpg. Senegal is ranked No. 1 in Africa, with two Olympic appearances.
The USA has won all four of its previous World Cup games against Senegal, plus the only Olympic outing between the two countries.
This tournament marks the fifth World Cup appearance for Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), a USA Basketball record. Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Suns) is right behind her with four appearances. Tina Charles (New York Liberty) is entering her third, and said she never takes the opportunity to wear a USA basketball jersey for granted.
Charles said just staying locked in and doing what the coaches ask is the key in preparing for the first game.
“We have great leaders in Diana and Sue,” Charles said. “So just following their every move and what they need us to do with their experience and knowing what it takes to accomplish a gold medal.”
Reeve spoke about how important it is for USA to start the preliminary round on the right track. She said the focus will be on themselves, with the goal to improve every time they step on the court. The USA also places a high importance on establishing chemistry early. Meshing players who already have a high level of experience will work in the favor of the USA when seeking to establish team chemistry.
“There is no substitute for experience,” Reeve said. “Talent and experience together is a really good combination. That’s what we have. We have leadership like Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi. They’re not going to let this team not be at its very best every time they step on the floor.”
Frank Bonner II is a contributor to USAB.com as part of the Sports Capital Journalism Program at IUPUI.
The USA will be in the hunt to earn a 10th World Cup gold medal at the 2018 FIBA World Cup Sept. 22-30 in Tenerife, Spain. Follow along on the team’s journey on usab.com and through USA Basketball’s social media as the team goes for gold.