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U.S. (2-0) 103, Spain (1-1) 63
U.S. next game: vs. Serbia, Wednesday, Aug. 10
Spain next game: vs. China, Wednesday, Aug. 10
U.S. women’s basketball team head coach Geno Auriemma appreciated what he’d seen during Sunday’s record-setting annihilation of Senegal to open group play at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. But he knew that choppier waters were likely to lie ahead.
“When you have this many good players and they’re really unselfish and they want to share the ball — and we’ve got a lot of great offensive players — every time someone touches the ball, something good’s going to happen,” Auriemma told NBC’s Kerith Burke on Monday. “It’s not going to be that easy from here on in.”
Sure enough, Auriemma was proven right on Monday, as a game opponent in Spain looked to take the fight straight to the heavily favored American women with dribble penetration, 3-point shooting and physical defense that helped stake the Spaniards to an early 8-6 lead. Before long, though, the U.S. rediscovered their shot-making rhythm and paired it with aggressive, opportunistic defense to rip off a 23-6 run that blew the game open. Spain continued to battle, but couldn’t get back within striking distance, or even stay within hailing distance, as the U.S. cruised to a 103-63 victory.
Five U.S. players scored in double figures, led by Diana Taurasi’s 13 points, in the win, which improved Team USA to 2-0 in group play and extended its Olympic winning streak to 43 games. The only American woman not to score was 37-year-old WNBA legend Tamika Catchings, who didn’t make her first appearance until midway through the third quarter, after the game was well in hand; every other player notched at least six points in a contest that became a blowout after intermission.
It wasn’t the crispest start for the U.S., as several players opened the game without the Midas touch they displayed against Senegal; Tina Charles, for instance, missed three straight layup tries on one early possession. But the inside-out duo of Brittney Griner (10 points on 5-for-6 shooting) and Taurasi (13 points, 3-for-7 from 3-point land) combined with a spark off the bench from reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player Elena Delle Donne (12 points, four rebounds, one assist, one block) to kick-start the late first-quarter run that tilted the game.
Spanish guard Alba Torrens, a two-time FIBA Europe Women’s Player of the Year and Euroleague Finals MVP who plays professionally in Russia, carried the offensive load for her side, finishing with a game-high 20 points on 6-for-13 shooting. As the game wore on, though, Team USA’s superior overall quality became apparent.
Sharp ball movement led by Taurasi and point guards Sue Bird (nine points, five rebounds, five assists) and Lindsay Whalen (six points, three rebounds, two assists, two steals) created a bevy of open looks, as the U.S. shot 55 percent from the floor with 23 assists on 41 made baskets. On the other end, the combined length, foot speed and versatility of the American defenders impeded Spain’s passing lanes, choked off their options and stifled their attempts to score on the interior, resulting in 23 Spanish turnovers and woeful 16-for-51 shooting inside the arc for Lucas Mondelo’s club.
The U.S. shot just 5-for-16 from long distance and committed 12 turnovers of their own. There were some missed boxouts that allowed Spain to snag 14 offensive rebounds and some blown defensive communications that resulted in backdoor cuts for easy layups. There’s some stuff to clean up before Wednesday afternoon’s clash with Serbia; it wasn’t a perfect performance. All told, though, the main takeaway from Team USA’s meeting with the No. 3-ranked team in the world seemed to be that while things won’t always be as easy as they were against Senegal for the U.S. women, there might just be too much talent on hand for things to get much harder.
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