The United States improved to 2-0 in the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup group stage with Sunday’s 100-88 win over China. Here’s how they got it done (and what they must improve upon moving forward).
Settled in as a team
Unlike in their first game against Senegal, the United States took the lead early and maintained it for the rest of the game. While China threatened throughout, even coming within one point just before halftime, Team USA used some well-timed runs to keep the Chinese at a healthy distance. The team was also much more active on the defensive end than in the Senegal game, disrupting play and making several near-steals.
However, the United States still struggled with turnovers early, ending up with two more turnovers than China by the game’s end. They also missed some open looks, somewhat contributing to the closeness of the game, although they still finished with a 58 percent shooting percentage. That said, the 12-point margin of victory was the closest between the two teams since a 10-point USA win in the teams’ first World Cup meeting in 1983.
Defensive issues continued
Although the United States didn’t attempt a three until late in the game, China was able to take (and make) shots from beyond the arc all game long, going 8-for-21. But China was also strong in the paint, mainly in the form of high scorer Han Xu and her 20 points. While A’ja Wilson matched up nicely with the taller Han, picking up three blocks for the game, Han was still able to weave her way around the United States’ often shaky defense.
The 88 points scored by China also registered as the third-highest point total of the tournament so far, with the United States’ 100 taking the top slot to France’s 89-point outing on Saturday. USA head coach Dawn Staley described the team’s overall defensive cohesion — or lack thereof — as a “work in progress.”
Young players stepped up
Once again, Wilson found her way near the top of the score sheet, putting up 20 points to go with 6 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 steals. Breanna Stewart led the way for the United States, scoring 23 points (21 of which came in the second half) and also grabbing 6 rebounds.
Morgan Tuck and Kelsey Plum also picked up personal highs in scoring for the tournament, with 8 points and 6 points, respectively, in their senior World Cup debuts. Considering the overall state of a team still trying to figure out its identity in the middle of a major tournament, all of the young players looked at least as comfortable as their older counterparts.
The United States’ next game is Tuesday against Latvia, who opened their World Cup with losses to China and Senegal. Check back for our preview and additional World Cup coverage.