menu close twitter facebook snapchat instagram youtube article basketball gallery graph left-arrow right-arrow search star trophy video net clipboard shield-check shield-star stopwatch filter reset Share




Shop Now USA Basketball
2020 OQT All Star Five

USA Women Fight Back to Edge Nigeria 76-71

  • Date:
    Feb 9, 2020

-- 12-Team Field for 2020 Olympic Women’s Basketball Tournament Finalized --   

Box Score
• Photos
Post-Game Press Conference
Schedule & Results
USA Roster

It took nearly all 40 minutes for the 2020 USA Basketball Women’s National Team (3-0, 17-1) to earn its 76-71 victory over Nigeria (1-2) in the final game at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament on Sunday night in Belgrade, Serbia.

With completion of the 2020 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, the 12-team field for the 2020 Olympic women’s basketball tournament is now known. In addition to Japan (host) and the USA (2018 FIBA World Cup gold medalists), Canada, China, France and Nigeria secured berths after two games of play in the three-game series. Ten nations remained in the mix ahead of today’s games and the six that punched their tickets to Tokyo on Sunday were: Australia, Belgium, Puerto Rico, Serbia, South Korea and Spain. The draw to determine the 2020 Olympic preliminary round groups will be held March 21.

In Sunday’s win, a game in which the United States trailed 57-50 heading into the final quarter, Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury/Baylor) led the USA offense with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field. Chelsea Gray (Los Angeles Sparks/Duke) added 12 points and a game-high seven assists, Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks/Stanford) added 11 points and Katie Lou Samuelson (Chicago Sky/Connecticut) tossed in 10 points, including a pair of critical fourth quarter 3-pointers.

“We talked about this before the game,” said USA co-coach Cheryl Reeve (Minnesota Lynx). “When we were in Tenerife (at the 2018 FIBA World Cup) and played this team, we were down 10 in the first quarter, so we expected a tough game and that’s what we got.”

“It was a really good game,” said Griner. “We knew that Nigeria was going to come out and give us a good game. In Spain (at the 2018 FIBA World Cup), it was the same thing. They got out a little bit more than what we wanted so we knew we were going to have to fight back. This game is going to help propel us going towards Tokyo. Seeing this, being down, fighting back, taking one possession at a time, I was just ready for those last three minutes to wind down.”

Ogwumike was voted MVP of the qualifying tournament, and joining her on the five-member All-Tournament team was A’ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces/South Carolina). Rounding the all-tourney squad were Ana Dabovic of Serbia, Leia Dongue of Mozambique and Eziinne Kalu of Nigeria.

“I was surprised,” exclaimed Ogwumike on her MVP award. “But, I didn’t do it by myself. I’m just really grateful to be here again with USA Basketball and have the opportunity to play.”

The USA trailed 57-50 headed into the final quarter but outscored Nigeria 26-14 to take the game 76-71.

Down 63-55 with 7:22 to play, the USA mounted a furious comeback, and capped by two free throws from Samuelson, posted a 15-5 scoring run over five minutes to pull ahead 70-68.

“You get to a point where you’re searching for someone who will do something simple like make a shot,” said Reeve. “Dan Hughes, shout out to Dan, that was his call (subbing Samuelson in). He said, ‘let’s do it’ and obviously it turned out to be the difference in the game. She had a way about her that was calm. Nigeria creates a lot of chaos and speeds you up and she didn’t get sped up. She was helpful in a lot of ways. Obviously the shot-making being the biggest thing.”

 Tied at 70, Wilson scored off a feed from Sue Bird (Seattle Storm/Connecticut) with 1:06 to play to push the red, white and blue ahead 72-70.  Nigeria’s Atonye Nyingifaegia made one of two free throws to close the U.S. lead to one, 71-70, with 54 second to go, but Griner scored off an assist from Gray to cushion the USA lead to 74-71 with 41.4 seconds remaining.

Nigeria missed two would-be game-tying 3-point shots in the closing seconds, and the USA sealed the win with two free throws from Gray with 11 seconds to play.

“This game kind of symbolized this journey that we want to go through, the journey that we’re going to experience,” said Ogwumike. “We’re getting a lot of experience, getting a lot of people playing, getting great competition, and preparing for Tokyo. I’m really, really excited about the competition. I’m glad we were able to get some good games in, get the chemistry going. Coach Reeve and coach Hughes and VJ (Vickie Johnson) really prepared us well. We feel good now going into these last few segments.”

The USA ran to a 9-2 lead to open the game, but Nigeria battled back and at the conclusion of the first quarter Nigeria held a 21-20 lead.

It was a dismal second quarter for the USA that almost did the Americans in. Outscored by Nigeria 19-6 in quarter two, Nigeria took a 40-26 lead to the locker room at halftime. 

Struggling to find the bottom of the net in the second quarter, the USA made just 1-of-16 shots from the field during that span, while Nigeria made 9-of-15 attempts. Recording 13 turnovers in the first half, the Americans were outrebounded by a 25-15 margin, which included Nigeria enjoying a 10-5 advantage on the offensive glass.

“Their physicality sort of surprises you,” said Reeve when talking about halftime adjustments. “As much as you talk about it, try to prepare for it, it’s different when you actually face it. So, we just had to adjust to that and simplify what we were doing offensively. In the second half we got ourselves into an offense that produced more paint touches. The way that they play on the inside, they fight around the post, and we got Brittney and Syl some easy catches.”

The third quarter saw the USA offense come to life, but every USA push was met by a push from Nigeria as well.  A traditional three-point play from Ogwumike had the USA within five, 48-43, with 2:21 left in the third quarter, But Nigeria responded by outscoring the U.S. 9-7 in the final minutes to take a 57-50 lead into the fourth quarter.

The USA ended the night shooting 41.3 percent, compared to Nigeria hitting 40.9 percent of its shots. While Nigeria outrebounded the USA 43-36, the USA was fueled to the win by its bench, which outscored Nigeria’s bench 48-15.

Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm/Connecticut) did not play due to a leg contusion.

In other games today, Serbia (2-1) defeated Mozambique (3-0) 76-48, China (3-0) sailed past South Korea (1-2) 100-60 and Spain (2-1) held off Great Britain (0-3) 79-69 in Belgrade; Australia (2-1) eliminated Brazil (0-3) 86-72 and France (3-0) remained perfect with a 89-51 win over Puerto Rico (1-2) in Bourges, France; and in Ostend, Belgium, Belgium (2-1) downed Sweden (0-3) 61-53 and Canada (3-0) defeated Japan (1-2) 70-68.

The 2019-20 USA National Team has a combined 17-1 record, which includes its three 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.

Related Tags:

Related Videos

Dawn Staley, playing in her third Olympic Games, was elected by her peers - all U.S. team captains - to carry the flag and lead the U.S. delegation into the 2004 Opening Ceremony. She reflects back on her selection and what it meant to her.

Several notable athletes on the USA National Team sat out most, if not all, of the 2019 WNBA season and are gearing up to get back on the court with their pro teams as the league launches the 2020 season.

USA Basketball National Team standouts Nneka Ogwumike and Napheesa Collier offer their thoughts and insights to seven of the nation's best collegiate athletes in USA Basketball's first Junior National Team panel discussion.

The 2018 USA Basketball Women’s National Team overcame a 16-point deficit in a 74-68 win over Canada on Sept. 8, 2018 at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The USA outscored Canada by 18 points in the final two quarters to avoid its first loss on home soil since a 65-64 exhibition defeat at the University of Tennessee on Nov. 7, 1999.

Four years ago, after the 2016 USA Basketball Women’s National Team had been together for less than a week and played one exhibition against the USA Select Team (a game that will be re-aired in two weeks), the USA squad traveled from Los Angeles to Newark, Delaware, for an exhibition game against France. Tina Charles finished with 17 points, five rebounds and two assists, and the U.S. used a potent second half performance to seize an 84-62 victory.

The home of the Blue Hens also was home to Elena Delle Donne during her collegiate career. It was where during her four years, she helped lead UD to a 104-32 record (.765 winning percentage), the 2013 NCAA Sweet Sixteen, 2012 NCAA second round, a pair of WNITs, two Colonial Athletic Association regular season titles and two CAA tournament crowns.

Related Content

With Geno Auriemma on the sidelines, USA teams have won seven gold medals.

The victory assured the United States its berth into the FIBA AmeriCup 2022.

The USA shot 51.4% from the field, 41.4% from 3-point and dished out 22 assists.

Thirteen players will participate in the USA’s Nov. 23-28 training camp to determine the 12-man roster for the November 2020 FIBA AmeriCup qualifying games.

Plans were announced to hold the second window of the FIBA AmeriCup Men's Qualifying Group D games at the Indianapolis Convention Center in Indianapolis from Nov. 29-30.

Coach Licensing & Organization Accreditation Login

Forgot Password?