Preview: USA vs. China
The USA Basketball Women’s World Cup Team (1-0) will continue Group D play when it meets China (1-0) at 1 p.m. EDT on Sunday in the FIBA Basketball World Cup, and the game will be broadcast in the United States on ESPN+.
The USA, No. 1 in the FIBA ratings, is undefeated in five previous World Cup matchups with China. The closest game was a 10-point USA victory in 1983, their first World Cup meeting.
China’s average age is 23 years old, the youngest team in the tournament. The average age of the USA roster is 27.5, the third-most experienced squad in the tournament, behind Senegal at 28.7 and Spain at 28.3.
“Of course experience helps out a lot,” said forward Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury). “But, young or old, it’s about playing hard and playing smart basketball. We know they’re going to come out with a lot of pride and play hard. We’re going to have to bring it.”
China, currently No. 10 in the FIBA rankings, struggled in its first matchup of pool play, which was a 64-61 victory over Latvia on Saturday. Rising star center Yueru Li sometimes appeared frustrated by the stingy Latvian defense and found herself on the bench after three fouls in as many quarters. She was held to just six points, far from the 17.2 she averaged in the FIBA Asia Cup, China’s qualifier for the FIBA World Cup.
The burden of scoring then fell to forward Ting Shao. She led the team with 15 while shooting 55.6 percent from the floor. Guard Liwei Yang contributed 10 points.
“Number 14 (Li) getting in foul trouble really impacted the game,” said USA Basketball assistant coach Jen Rizzotti (George Washington), who scouted China. “She sets a tone for them in terms of getting baskets and opening up the floor for the shooters. She didn’t play much today. I definitely expect her to come out against us tomorrow and try to set the tone.”
China towered over Latvia but struggled to consistently rebound. China’s average height, 6-foot-2, is two inches taller than Latvia’s average of 6-foot. Li, 6-foot-7, and Xu Han, 6-foot-9, struggled to secure defensive rebounds against the likes of Aija Putnina and Anete Steinberga, both 6-foot-3.
China’s size can be intimidating, but Rizzotti was confident.
“We have size of our own,” Rizzotti said. “Our big players, so many of them can move away from the basket. We just have to be patient. Their post players got in a lot of foul trouble today. We have to move the ball inside and outside and take advantage of mismatches.”
USA and University of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley maintains a similar attitude. She has faith in her players to do what they do.
“Against China or anybody, we’re going to lean on our experience,” Staley said.
Ryan Gregory 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.