USA Women Claim FIBA AmeriCup Gold with 74-59 Win Over Host Puerto Rico
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The USA (6-0), a team comprised of top collegians, captured the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup gold medal with a 74-59 win over Puerto Rico (4-1) on Saturday night at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The gold medal game had it all – the USA riding a 21-11 third quarter run to victory, the lights in the arena going out and an ensuing dance off at half court and a crowd in favor of host Puerto Rico (4-2)
The USA claimed a second-straight FIBA AmeriCup gold medal and fourth overall, and the U.S. women now are 30-7 all-time at the event.
In the bronze medal game, Brazil (5-2) beat Canada (5-2) 87-82 in double overtime. As the top four finishing teams, the USA, Brazil, Canada and Puerto Rico qualified to compete in one of four 2022 FIBA World Cup Qualifying Tournaments that will be used to determine the 12 teams that compete in the 2022 FIBA World Cup.
“We compiled a group of young, college, talented young ladies that made a commitment to come to this tournament, knowing that we would be out-experienced,” said Dawn Staley (South Carolina), USA AmeriCup and National Team head coach. “But they worked hard throughout the trials, they worked hard throughout the training camp, and we just kind of let them know that these are grown women you're going to play against. These are professional women's basketball players that you're going to play against, and we're going to have to utilize our depth, utilize our talent, utilize our ability to have played on a big stage in college. But coming here and playing was a great experience with them. I know they made me a better coach. I hope we as a coaching staff made them better players, just to have this type of experience.”
Rhyne Howard (Kentucky/Cleveland, Tenn.), who was named tournament MVP, finished with 22 points and five assists, and her 8-of-20 shooting from the field and 4-of-10 from 3-point set U.S. women’s AmeriCup records for field goal attempts and 3-point attempts.
“I really wasn't looking for the MVP, just to provide for my team and produce for my team and get us a win,” Howard said. “To get MVP was an added bonus.”
Elissa Cunane (NC State/Summerfield, N.C.), who scored 12 points and had six rebounds, joined Howard on the all-tournament team, along with Brazil’s Clarissa Dos Santos, Colombia’s Manuela Rios and Puerto Rico’s Jennifer O’Neill.
“It means everything, just to come out here my first time with USA Basketball and to make as big of an impact on the team as I did, it's just an honor and a testament to my teammates and coaches around me,” Cunane said of her all-tournament selection.
Aliyah Boston (South Carolina/St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.) scored 17 points and collected a USA women’s AmeriCup record 19 rebounds, including 10 offensive boards, to help the USA compile a 63-37 rebounding advantage over Puerto Rico. Naz Hillmon (Michigan/Cleveland, Ohio) had 12 rebounds and eight points, while Veronica Burton (Northwestern/Newton, Mass.) dished out five assists.
“Coach emphasized crashing the boards, making sure that we were going to outrebound them, so I just focused on that,” Boston said.
There were four tied scores in the first quarter before a 3 from Howard, who had 12 points in the first quarter, put the USA up 10-7. Puerto Rico closed the first period by outscoring the USA 14-7 to lead 21-17 at the first break.
With Puerto Rico leading 25-19 in the second, the USA put together a 9-0 run, but Puerto Rico responded with its own 9-0 stretch, and Puerto Rico led 34-28 with 2:48 before halftime. The USA scored six more points while holding Puerto Rico to two points, and at the midway point, Puerto Rico led 36-34.
Five consecutive points from Boston to start the second half gave the USA a 39-36 lead, which the USA had stretched to 51-40 when Ashley Owusu (Maryland/Woodbridge, Va.) made a jumper at 3:54. The teams traded baskets from there, and heading into the final 10 minutes, the USA led 55-47.
A 3-pointer from Burton to start the fourth period gave the USA a double-digit lead, 58-47, and the USA did not let Puerto Rico come within single-digits for the remainder of the game.
The USA was on the verge of closing out the win as Boston stepped to the free throw line at 1:59, and then the overhead lights in the arena went out. As staff worked to get the lights back on, the USA and Puerto Rico had enough light to shoot around on the court, while fans treated it like a concert, waving the flashlights on their cell phones. After about 15 minutes of that, an impromptu dance battle broke out between the two teams at half court, delighting everyone in the arena.
The break lasted about 25 minutes overall, before Boston returned to the free throw line and sank both tries to put the USA up 72-59. Cunane added two points with 13 seconds to play, and the USA secured the 74-59 win.
“I think it really got us going,” Hillmon said of the dance off. “It warmed us up going back into that two-minute stretch. It was a lot of fun. I mean, that's what this game is about – having fun and enjoying it, and that was a glimpse of that.”
Several U.S. women’s AmeriCup single-competition records were set as well. Boston (9.3 rpg.) and Cunane (8.0 rpg.) now list No. 1 and No. 2 for rebounds averaged; Boston is No. 1 for blocks averaged (1.8 bpg.); Henderson is tied for No. 1 in 3-point field goal percentage (.474, 9-19 3pt FGs); and Sedona Prince (Oregon/Liberty Hill, Texas) is No. 2 for free throw percentage (100%, 7-7 FTs).
As a team, the USA set records for most rebounds (347), rebounds averaged (57.8 rpg.) and blocked shots averaged (5.5 bpg.) and tied the record for free throw percentage (.808, 105-130 FTs).
Jennifer Rizzotti (Connecticut Sun president) assistant coach for the USA AmeriCup and Women’s National Teams, and University of Arizona head coach Adia Barnes completed the USA AmeriCup staff.