Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain– The USA women’s team finished the FIBA world cup undefeated (6-0) and completed their quest of their third straight World Cup medal. In addition, the USA become the first team since the Soviet Union to accomplish such an honor, defeating Australia, 73-56.
These two ball clubs were no strangers to each other coming into the contest. Australia and the USA had encountered each other 17 previous times with the U.S. winning all 17 matchups. With the win, the U.S. improved to 18-0 against Australia in senior women’s basketball competition.
The game itself wasn’t the best for either team, but the U.S. stayed composed and found ways to get the job done and bring home the gold.
First quarter action began with the U.S. coming out of the locker room red hot. They would climb to an early 10-0 lead and led by as many as 11 points to start the first period. Australia, who came into the championship game second behind the U.S. in field goal percentage (49 percent), missed their first eight shots of the contest.
However, it would be their star player, Liz Cambage, who would have it rough in the first half.
Cambage, who was named one of the tournaments “All-Star Five” and was an unstoppable force the entire tournament, didn’t have her best performance against the red, white, and blue.
Cambage came into the game averaging a monstrous 27 points and eight rebounds on 68 percent shooting. However, she had a tough time getting in any sort of rhythm or flow. The U.S. swarmed her with every touch she would get inside. Cambage would only tally four points the entire half.
Australia decided to give Cambage an early seat in the first and gave the bench an opportunity to give the team some energy to end the first period. With Cambage on the bench, Australia’s second unit would go on a 7-0 run and hit their last 5 of 11 shots from the field. In addition, the bench would also outscore the USA 11-0 and cut the lead to just five.
Australia’s best chance to come back and make a run in the game was in the second quarter because neither team could buy a basket even if they had coupons. However, costly turnovers, poor field goal percentage and only cashing in on one three-pointer, affected the team’s chances.
The U.S. was not an efficient team in the second stanza, either. The team would finish the half shooting 25 percent from the field and 36 percent from downtown. But, their free throw shooting would keep the Australian team at bay and gave them an eight-point halftime lead.
The entire second half would be controlled by the red, white and blue. Team USA started the third quarter on a 9-0 run and started to pound the ball inside every chance they could.
Brittney Griner, who was named the championship games Player of the Game, would begin to take advantage of the “barbecued chicken” in the post. Griner finished the game with 15 points, three rebounds, and two blocks and would get the better of Cambage each trip down the floor.
Understanding that Australia relied heavily on Cambage to get something going, the USA would continue to swarm Cambage for the entirety of the second half. Cambage would go into the fourth minus 25 and couldn’t hit a beach ball in the ocean as she finished with seven points and 14 rebounds.
Team USA continued to show their dominance, holding Australia to only 56 points and walked away with a 17-point victory. In addition, winning their 10th gold medal and fifth FIBA world championship gold medal. The third consecutive World Cup victory was outstanding for the USA. However, there were other players who had amazing accomplishments following the win.
Breanna Stewart, who won the WNBA’s regular season and Finals MVP award, would be named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Head coach Dawn Staley has now won a World Cup as a player and a coach — the only individual to accomplish such a feat.
Diana Taurasi, who finished with 13 points, would also be named one of the tournaments “All-Star Five” and Sue Bird, who appeared in her fifth world cup, broke Staley’s assist record in World Cup competition.
The U.S. women’s team has been absolutely dominant for the better part of two decades and deserve respect from not only the rest of the world, but from sports fans far and wide. Since 1996 they have gone 100-1 in senior women’s basketball competition, improve to 109-21 in World Cup play and have won seven of the last nine world cups. Team USA isn’t looking to slow down anytime soon.
The win gives the USA an automatic bid into the 2020 Olympic games and the team is surely a favorite to take home the gold once again. The women’s game is in good hands and these women are showing that they not only have next… but have right now.