It’s one game down and two more to go for Team USA in the group stage of the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup following Saturday’s 87-67 win over Senegal. If you were unable to watch the game, here are the highlights:
Elena Delle Donne led the American scorers with 19 points, shooting 8-of-10 from the field and grabbing 6 rebounds. Nneka Ogwumike shot a perfect 6-of-6 from the field as part of a 16-point performance. A’ja Wilson, in her World Cup debut, added 15 more points.
For Senegal, Oumoul Khairy Sarr led her team with 18 points.
Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s game:
Elena Delle Donne is back in form
After an injury to her left knee during the WNBA Playoffs, the Mystics forward was very effective for the Americans despite coming off the bench and not even playing half the game. Delle Donne’s efficiency and fluidity were on full display Saturday and she was too much for the Senegalese to overcome.
The USA took the first quarter to get used to each other
Most of the national teams in the World Cup have practiced for months, and even years, together before major continental and world competitions.
The Americans have a significant talent and depth advantage, which is why they have won two consecutive World Cups and five consecutive Olympic tournaments. But they have limited time to play together before world tournaments because every player is in the WNBA during the summer.
The United States started a lineup of Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Breanna Stewart, Tina Charles and Nneka Ogwumike. They allowed Senegal to race to an early lead, though the USA finished the first quarter up 18-17. The Americans can get away with “feeling out the opponent” with a team like Senegal, who are one of the weakest teams here. But doing that again could spell trouble if they are playing European powers like Spain and France.
Diana Taurasi didn’t have a Diana Taurasi-like performance
The Mercury guard and the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer was limited to three points on 1-of-7 shooting. For most national teams, seeing a player of Taurasi’s stature come out with a bad performance generally means that that national team is going to lose.
Fortunately, the frontcourt’s overall offensive performance was very strong. And also, the USA is just that talented to the point where they can afford to see their stars have an off day. Taurasi should bounce back in Team USA’s next game against China, but her age also raises the urgency for other guards like Jewell Loyd and Kelsey Plum to pick up more of the scoring load from the perimeter sooner rather than later. Taurasi, as good as she still is, isn’t playing forever.