By Jeffrey Newholm
In an often sloppy and thoroughly competitive contest the USA women defeated China 100-88 Sunday afternoon to reach 2-0 in World Cup play and clinch group D (provided the US doesn’t forfeit Tuesday’s game). Barring this very unlikely scenario the US will receive a bye into Friday’s quarterfinal against an opponent to be determined. Breanna Stewart led the ladies with 23 points and 6 boards and A’ja Wilson also played quite well, adding 20 points. But there’s plenty of reason for concern, and pained expressions from coach Dawn Staley proved future success in this tournament is far from assured.
Although the nationals aren’t going to stoop to excuses I’ll offer one anyways. Many of the team’s top players were very late to training camp due to the WNBA playoffs. Perhaps as a result the US seemed very off on offense. Officially the team had 15 turnovers but more glaring was the numerous poor passes. By my count, some 20 passes were well off the mark. Thankfully very talented pros impressed with 57.6% shooting. Also greatly troubling was very poor defense. As one announcer observed, weak side defending appeared very poor. China blew by the Americans with apt passing, resulting in far too many two foot swooshes. The US was never in danger of losing but have little time to improve with much better competition probably waiting.
While fans like me love to moan, successful coach Staley has a sound game plan. Her South Carolina teams aim to grind opponents out. It’s sensible then that the national games have been closer but surer than under Geno Auriemma’s tenure. As Olympian Klay Thompson stated about another win I was very anxious about, “a win’s a win!” Hopefully the US hoopers aren’t discouraged before a possible Friday matchup with talented Liz Cambage and surging Australia.