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Defensive-Minded USA Plays China for Gold on Saturday

  • Author:
    Owen Kaelble, IUPUI
  • Date:
    Sep 30, 2022

    When the clock reached double-zeros, not only was the USA on its way to the 2022 FIBA Women's World Cup Final, but it had just held Canada, the No. 4 team in the world, to 43 points, the fewest ever scored in a semifinal game in World Cup history. The feat was accomplished through intensive game-planning and attention to detail.

    “I was really pleased with our team’s attention to detail in the scouting report,” said USA coach Cheryl Reeve. “And so I told the group that they (Canada) were a win against the hosts away from being the number one seed on that side (of the bracket). I wanted to make sure they understood what they just did and how hard they made it for Canada to score the ball. So that was a quality win for us.”

    The stats paint a picture for how difficult it was for Canada to get the ball in the hoop. Canada shot 15.4% (4-16 3FG) from long range and 21.9% (16-73 FG) from the field on the evening. Additionally, Canada scored 24 points in the paint, exactly half of USA’s total of 48, and the Canadians only managed four fast break points compared to USA’s 16.

    Canada’s average of 72.5 points in its previous six games was the fourth-highest in the tournament.

    “Congratulations to the USA. They played amazing from the beginning of the game,” said Canada coach Victor Lapena.

    It was another masterclass in defense from the Americans in a tournament where their defensive play has been a big part of their identity. After seven games, the USA has now outscored their opponents 707 to 403 and has won by an average of 43.4 points. The Americans have also only allowed a total of only 45 fastbreak points and have scored 162 of their own.

    In a tournament where the roster was not complete until the third game, USA Basketball has been able to come together and hold strong on the court no matter who is available to play. According to Reeve, it all goes back to the training camp in Vegas.

    “This started for us in Las Vegas…and so I can’t say enough again, I’ve tried to recognize everyone that was a part of that pool,” said Reeve. “And they really bought in and helped us form this foundation on which we’ve played here in Sydney.”

    The USA's defense will be tested once again in a rematch with China in the Final. The USA won the group phase contest between the two, 77-63, as it moved to 7-0 in tournament history against China. The game was the U.S.'s closest of the tournament. The World Cup Final is set for Saturday at 2:00 a.m ET/4:00 p.m. Sydney time live on ESPN2 and ESPN+.  

    Owen Kaelble is a contributor to USAB.com as part of the Sports Capital Journalism Program at IUPUI.

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