USA Defeats Puerto Rico 78-54 to Reach AmeriCup Gold Medal Game
Led by a defense that limited host Puerto Rico (3-2) to just 27.0% shooting from the field (20-74 FGs), and owning a 63-34 rebounding advantage, the USA women (5-0) will play in the FIBA AmeriCup gold medal game after a 78-54 semifinal win on Saturday night in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The USA will meet Canada (5-0) in the final at 8 p.m. (all times listed are EDT) on Sunday, Sept. 29. Puerto Rico will play Brazil (3-2) in the bronze medal game at 5:30 p.m. EDT. Both games will be available to watch live on ESPN+. Canada defeated Brazil 66-58 to earn its trip to the championship game.
Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx) led all scorers with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Tina Charles (New York Liberty) added 14 points and 10 rebounds. Katie Lou Samuelson (Chicago Sky) scored 10 points, and Napheesa Collier (Minnesota Lynx) grabbed 10 rebounds to go with four points and four assists.
“Puerto Rico did a great job of speeding us up,” said Dawn Staley, USA National Team and University of South Carolina head coach. “They scrapped. They put themselves in a position of having a game plan that put them in the best position to win, which was scrambling around, getting long rebounds, shoot as many 3s as they can. After the first quarter of the game we settled down, made some adjustments and started rebounding the ball a little bit better defensively.
Another DOUBLE-DOUBLE for @SylviaFowles (17 PTS| 13 REB) to help @usabasketball 🇺🇸 reach the FINAL of the #AmeriCupWomen! 🔥🔥🔥— FIBA (@FIBA) September 29, 2019
📺 https://t.co/aUwf4UbMQT pic.twitter.com/Kz5ilvkBjC
“Both Tina and Syl, they know they have a height advantage, and they know they have an experience advantage,” added Staley. “Once we put the ball in their hands, they delivered it for us tonight. They did what veterans do and that is lead our basketball team.”
The USA jumped out to an 8-2 lead early in the game, but Puerto Rico was within four points, 14-10, with 1:24 to go in the first quarter. Collier scored and Samuelson sank a 3-pointer, and the USA was up 19-10 after 10 minutes of play.
“I know that I’m a shooter, and I can shoot the ball well,” said Samuelson, who is averaging a USA fourth-best 9.2 points per game. “So, when I come in and I have open shots, I know people count on me to knock them in.”
Puerto Rico was within eight points of the USA at 5:11 in the second quarter, but from there, the USA outscored the islanders 10-2 to lead 38-22 at halftime.
While the USA committed 10 turnovers in the first half, which Puerto Rico turned into 11 points, it limited Puerto Rico to just seven made field goals and 18.0% shooting (7-39 FGs).
The USA went ahead by 21 points after a 10 run at 5:11 in the third quarter, 50-29. Puerto Rico cut that margin to 16 points, but the USA added the final points of the third period to make it 55-36.
The fourth quarter saw the USA outscore Puerto Rico 23-18 to earn the 78-54 win.
“It was very hard,” said Fowles after the game. “They came out with a lot of energy, a lot of intensity. Of course, that’s something we expected because they were home. They fought the whole game, and we made some adjustments throughout the game, which was great. We did lot of great things. Of course, we have a lot of things we need to clean up to get ready for this gold medal round.”
The U.S. held Puerto Rico, which made 8.3 3-pointers per game over its first four contests, to just 4-of-18 (22.2%) from beyond the arc.
“Through my experience playing against Canada, I know they’re going to use the entire shot clock,” said Charles. “We’re going to have to work on defense. They’re extremely patient. They are going to always make sure they get the right shot. They’re a very disciplined team, so we’re going to have to bear down and see how mature we are throughout the last game. I don’t think we’ve reflected who we are through the dynamic of this group, so we have one more chance to do that.”
The USA has played in four previous FIBA Americas Championships, historically used as a qualifier for an Olympics or World Cup, in 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2007. The 13 rebounds by Fowles were a U.S. single game record at the event, eclipsing the 12 by Diana Taurasi in 2007, and the USA’s 63 rebounds were a single-game team high (60 versus Chile in 1993).
In today’s classification games, Dominican Republic (2-3) edged out Argentina (1-4) 67-65 to finish in seventh place and Colombia (3-2) defeated Cuba (2-3) 75-62.
The top eight nations at the FIBA AmeriCup, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and the USA, qualified compete in one of two 2019 FIBA Americas Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, Nov. 10-18. Teams will be seeded and drawn into two groups of four, one of which will compete in Argentina and the other in Canada, and the top two teams from each of those tournaments will earn the right to play in one of the 2020 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (sites TBS), Feb. 2-10.
Dan Hughes (Seattle Storm), Cheryl Reeve (Minnesota Lynx) and Jennifer Rizzotti (George Washington), who assisted the USA to a gold medal at the 2018 FIBA World Cup, are serving as assistant coaches.
The USA National Team, which already has qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, will take advantage of and participate in FIBA’s new Olympic qualification process, that provides nations with two windows of competition, Nov. 10-18, 2019, and Feb. 2-10, 2020.
As was the case over the past three quadrenniums, the 2019-20 USA National Team roster, which currently lists 34 athletes, will be fluid. It is expected that the official, 12-member 2020 U.S. Olympic Team will be comprised of players from the 2019-20 USA National Team.
Chaired by USA Women’s National Team director Carol Callan, USA AmeriCup Team athletes were selected by the USA Basketball Women’s National Team Player Selection Committee, which currently includes three-time Olympic and two-time World Cup gold medalist Katie Smith as the athlete representative; representing the WNBA is Connecticut Sun head coach Curt Miller and Los Angeles Sparks general manager Penny Toler; and University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma, who coached USA teams to gold medals at the past two Olympics and FIBA World Cups, serves as a special advisor.