USA Basketball Defeats Uconn

USA Basketball
HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT - JANUARY 27: Crystal Dangerfield #5 of the UConn Huskies dribbles against Nneka Ogwumike #16 of the United States during USA Women's National Team Winter Tour 2020 game between the United States and the UConn Huskies at The XL Center on January 27, 2020 in Hartford, Connecticut. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Kobe Bryant’s death rocked the basketball world and Uconn’s world specifically before Monday’s thrilling yet emotional exhibition in Hartford. The USA Basketball Olympic team is barnstorming the US before Tokyo. Oregon defeated the All-Stars in November, casting a shroud of vulnerability over the group. Would a “down” (gasp – 18-1 and a projected two seed!) Husky program steal another upset?

A World On Bryant

Others can detail Bryant’s NBA talents, but was he a genuine ambassador for women’s basketball? To a woman (and Geno too), each player present Monday night spoke emotionally and positively. The game started with eight and 24-second violations in tribute to Kobe. However, his mistakes can’t be ignored or, as socialist historian Howard Zinn persuasively argued, mentioned too quickly. Kobe’s alleged 2003 rape is a grave charge and especially relevant in the MeToo era (and considering WNBA players who have courageously spoken about their own horrors).

Thankfully, the women’s sports world is more vocal and visible than ever. A sexual assault accusation against a male athlete today brings swift and righteous condemnation from feminist sports. Kobe was, effectively, grandfathered into his fame before the women’s sports rights movement took flight. Thankfully, Kobe brought fabulous publicity to women’s basketball. However, I can’t help but wonder if we let a complicated figure off too lightly for the social media smiles. The first 32 seconds Monday wasn’t the time for sensationalism. Uconn and the All-Sars paid proper respects to the departed and quickly raced to a thrilling contest.

A Game Of Runs

Momentum is rather funny in basketball. The longer a run goes, the less likely it is to continue. Fitting, then, how the first three quarters included a jab by the All-Stars and a counter-swipe by the under(sized) dogs. Uconn alum Breanna Stewart started the action with her first bucket in nearly a year after a 2019 injury.

Although Geno couldn’t hear the announcers during a 14-point USA run, his ladies certainly heard him. A barrage of threes tied the game at halftime, and Uconn briefly surged ahead by three.

All-Star coach Cheryl Reeve implored her WNBA athletes to win the first five minutes of the fourth. Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles then outmuscled a mentally exhausted Uconn team and pulled away for a 79-64 triumph. Where do the two squads proceed?

Bouncing To Glory

Kobe’s coach, Phil Jackson,  insisted success is a process, not a destination. This notion is easier said than done when the goals are gold medals and Final Fours! The All-Stars play a final exhibition game in Lousiville on Sunday. Then, they play in a Serbian Olympic Qualifying Tournament. However, the US already qualified for the Olympics, so the event serves as a tune-up. Uconn hosts Cincinnati on Thursday before Oregon visits Storrs Monday. So, after losing to the national team, Uconn must garner the courage to play the team that beat the national team. Monday’s exhibition will benefit Uconn’s attention to improvement in its quest for the Final Four. It refreshingly offered the nationals challenging competition to maintain focus for July. After the last hooper wiped the last tear from her eye, a brighter future, literally and figuratively, became clear for the world’s best collegiate and professional players.

Jeffrey Newholm
About Jeffrey Newholm 203 Articles
Hey there! I’m Jeff Newholm and depending on your point of view I’m blessed or cursed that my two favorite sports are outside the limelight. Being a UW-Whitewater grad (winter 2013) my first love was d3 college football, but over the last few years I have picked up a huge interest in woman’s basketball (Uconn being my favorite team as their 90 game winning streak helped show me how good a team can get in the woman’s game). I like all the sports everyone else likes (NFL, NBA, MLB, NCAA basketball and football) but those two sports are where I really have a passion.
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