USA Wins Fourth Consecutive FIBA Women's World Cup Title
Showing off her brand new watch - presented to the 2022 FIBA Women's World Cup MVP - at the postgame press conference, A’ja Wilson proudly proclaimed the news of the night.
“According to my watch, we are gold medalists!”
Capping off a perfect run in Sydney, the USA captured gold against China with a wire-to-wire triumph, 83-61. It is the 11th overall World Cup title for USA Basketball, a fourth straight gold medal and a 30th straight FIBA World Cup win. With the victory USA Basketball now qualifies for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“I think that what we showed is that our league and the WNBA and professional basketball players in the United States are really, really good,” said coach Cheryl Reeve. “And the depth of the talent that we have was on display.”
For the USA, the 22-point margin of victory was the largest in a World Cup final, beating the previous high of 20 points. Additionally, the women broke the USA record for average point differential, winning the eight games by an average of 40.7 points, well beyond the previous record of 35.1 points set in 2010.
Throughout the tournament, defense was a key identity for this group, and it continued in the match against China. The USA forced 19 turnovers, scoring 19 points off the giveaways, for a total of 203 points scored off of 158 opponent turnovers in this World Cup. USA Basketball allowed an average of 58.0 points per game, good for third all-time in USA World Cup history. The USA only allowed an average of 25.5 points in the paint per game, less than half of the average of 52.5 scored by the Americans.
Before a sellout crowd of 15,895 at the Sydney Superdome, the USA found success in the paint, scoring 12 of its 18 points near the basket in a competitive first quarter. That pattern was a sign of things to come as the USA scored 40 points in the paint overall accounting for almost half of its scoring. In the second quarter, China pulled within four with 4:24 left in the first half, but a 3-pointer from Breanna Stewart put the USA up 33-26, and China would not get any closer the rest of the game. The USA led for 36:17 and led by as many as 29 points.
Wilson led all USA scorers with 19 points, while Kelsey Plum contributed 17 points and Jewell Loyd hit three 3-pointers on the way to an 11 point night.
Behind her 19 point performance, Wilson was named MVP of the FIBA World Cup. It was a well-deserved honor for the team veteran who finished the tournament first overall in field goal percentage (.661% FG) and tied for second in scoring along with Leesuel Kang of Korea with 17.2 points per game. In her six games in Sydney, Wilson scored in double-digits in each contest.
Despite traveling to Sydney after a championship parade to celebrate a WNBA title with the Las Vegas Aces, Wilson did not miss a beat and immediately contributed on the court.
“I’ve had players where A’ja is, you win a WNBA championship, you come over and you win gold,” said Reeve. “It’s really, really special. And they make it look easy, it’s not. They’re tremendously talented, A’ja is tremendously talented.
One game after piling up eight assists in the semifinal game against Canada, Chelsea Gray earned the Player of the Game honor by matching that number in today’s performance, dishing out eight assists, while also scoring 10 points along with three steals. Her eight assists are the second-highest total in a Women’s World Cup Final since 1994. USA great Diana Taurasi had eight versus Spain in 2014 and former USA Basketball coach Dawn Staley had 12 versus Russia in 1998.
The only player on the roster from the gold medal-winning 2014 group, Stewart became the eighth player to win at least three gold medals at the Women’s World Cup and the fourth USA player. All four of the USA players played at the University of Connecticut (Stewart, Taurasi, Sue Bird and Tina Charles).
“It’s been incredible, (it’s) just a journey to continue to lay that foundation down,” said Wilson. “So many of the greats have been in front of us and they laid it down and now it’s our turn to step up and be in that situation.”
Owen Kaelble is a contributor to USAB.com as part of the Sports Capital Journalism Program at IUPUI.