USA Sprints Past Mozambique for 124-49 Victory
Jumping out to a 36-10 lead at the end of the first period, the 2020 USA Basketball Women’s National Team (2-0, 16-1) controlled the game from start to finish in a 124-49 victory over Mozambique (0-2) at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament on Saturday night in Belgrade, Serbia.
The USA closes play against Nigeria (1-1) on Jan. 9. That contest will tip at 2 p.m. EST and will stream on ESPN+.
By halftime all 11 available U.S. athletes had scored, and at the end of the game the USA was led by 24 points and nine rebounds from Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks/Stanford). A’ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces/South Carolina) contributed 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists; Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury/Baylor) had 16 points and nine rebounds; Jewell Loyd (Seattle Storm/Notre Dame) added 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists; Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm/Connecticut) also had 11 points; and Katie Lou Samuelson (Chicago Sky/Connecticut) contributed 10 points.
Additionally, Chelsea Gray (Los Angeles Sparks/Duke) tallied 12 of the USA’s 41 assists, while Skylar Diggins-Smith (Dallas Wings/Notre Dame) dished out six.
“Big thanks to Mozambique for giving us a great, competitive game,” said Ogwumike. “I don’t think we ever walk in thinking that we’re the better team. I think we expect everyone’s best competition, which is what we got today with Mozambique. They never give up. They made us work on every play, offensively and defensively. I’m just really glad that we were able to come out with a good win, knowing that we got better from the other team.”
The USA won the opening tip, and Ogwumike scored the first five points in a 7-0 opening run that also featured a pair of assists.
“The first two plays Nneka made were examples of what we wanted to do,” said USA co-coach Dan Hughes (Seattle Storm). “The ball moved. There are a lot of assists on the stat sheet, and it went to different natural spots. We moved the ball extremely well, defended and played the game in a way that we want to get something from every time we’re together, and I thought we got something out of today.”
The first quarter saw the USA shoot 68.2% percent (15-22 FGs), including nine points from Ogwumike and seven points from Stewart, and the USA led 36-10 with 14 assists after 10 minutes.
“We were running our lanes wide, our spacing was good and I felt like we were playing off of each other really well,” said Gray of the team’s ball distribution. “We can control us, play our way and play to our standard every time we step on the court. That’s what we did tonight, and it showed. We had a lot of assists all the way around. It was a great game for us in that way, as well as for our chemistry.”
By halftime, the USA had added 23 more points, limiting Mozambique to 12, and led 59-22. The USA had slightly cooled to 57.9% from the field (22-38 FGs).
The third quarter saw the USA outscore Mozambique 33-12 to lead 92-34 with 10 minutes to play.
The USA broke into triple digits before two minutes had expired in the fourth quarter on a score from Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx/Louisiana State) at 8:06 that made it 101-39.
The USA outscored Mozambique 32-15 overall in the fourth quarter to reach the final score of 124-49.
The 41 assists came from 48 field goals and nine non-and-ones.
Additionally, the U.S. shot a perfect 20-of-20 from the line and finished the night shooting a sizzling 63.2% (48-76 FGs) overall from the field and 44.4% (8-18 3pt FGs) from behind the arc.
Sue Bird (Seattle Storm/Connecticut) did not play due to load management and is listed as day-to-day.
While the USA already is qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, along with host Japan, the remaining 10 teams in the women’s basketball field will be determined following Sunday’s final FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament games.
This tournament marks just the second time in history a Mozambique team has advanced to a FIBA women’s basketball world tournament. The African side first competed on the world stage in the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
“They have a lot of pride, pride for their country,” said Gray, who was impressed with Mozambique’s spirit. “It was an experience for them and kudos for them for never giving up. They kept fighting the whole time.”
In the other side of the USA’s group, Serbia (1-1) held off Nigeria 70-64.
In the group of four teams that were slated to play in China but were moved to Serbia, China (2-0) edged Spain (1-1) 64-62 and South Korea (1-1) clipped Great Britain (0-2) 82-79. In Bourges, France, Australia (1-1) sailed past Puerto Rico (1-1) 100-74 and France (2-0) downed Brazil (0-2) 89-72; and in Ostend, Belgium, host Belgium (1-1) picked off Japan (1-1) 92-84 and Canada (2-0) defeated Sweden (0-2) 80-50.
“The way we moved the basketball, the high number of assists, is very indicative of how we’re playing the game at both ends of the court right now,” concluded Hughes. “We had the ability to play a lot of players today. We got quality minutes from everyone. We did a good job of playing well with each other. We were very efficient, both offensively and defensively.”
The 2019-20 USA National Team’s 16-1 record includes its two victories in Serbia, a 6-0 mark and gold medal at the FIBA AmeriCup in Puerto Rico, a 3-0 record at the FIBA Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Argentina and a 5-1 slate in exhibition games against college teams.