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Analysis: Veterans and young stars led the United States to 102-76 win over Latvia and a 3-0 record in the World Cup so far

The United States is headed to the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup Quarterfinals after a big win over Latvia. Here’s how it happened.

Tina Charles of Team USA goes up for the shot against a helpless Latvian squad.
Photo by Catherine Steenkeste/NBAE via Getty Images

The United States remains undefeated in the FIBA World Cup after a 102-76 win over Latvia on Tuesday evening in Spain. By doing so, the Americans won Group D and an automatic spot in the quarterfinals. Here’s how they did it.

Veterans continued to lead the charge for Team USA

Tina Charles scored 18 points and grabbed 6 rebounds on Tuesday while shooting 8-of-13 from the field. Charles has averaged 13.3 points in the three games of Group Stage competition.

Meanwhile, Diana Taurasi added 16 points in another solid performance for the Phoenix Mercury superstar.

Brittney Griner had a strong World Cup debut, with Elena Delle Donne sitting out

Brittney Griner was unable to play in either of the first two games in the Group Stage due to an ankle sprain. On Tuesday, Griner scored 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting and grabbed 6 rebounds. With Elena Delle Donne sitting this game out due to rest, the contest against Latvia was a good time for Griner to get some playing time before the knockout stages begin. The Americans could face teams like France, Spain, Australia and/or Belgium to get to the championship, so every player needs to be in top form.

Younger guards stepped up, with Sue Bird sitting out

With Bird out, the younger guards on Team USA were able to play extended minutes. Layshia Clarendon played 23 minutes and dished 7 assists and scored 5 points. Jewell Loyd scored 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting after having two less-than-productive games earlier in the Group Stage.

One of the key things the USA Basketball Women’s National Team selection committee will surely be watching with Team USA, even if they win the gold medal rather easily, is how well younger guards like Loyd and Clarendon perform when Sue Bird and/or Taurasi are resting. Bird and Taurasi may still be among the USA’s elite, but they aren’t playing forever. While it is true that the younger guards haven’t played as well during the tournament as their veteran counterparts, those growing pains are necessary for the long-run development.

Dawn Staley effectively managed her veterans’ minutes throughout the Group Stage

One of the advantages that Team USA head coach Dawn Staley has is a team that is almost entirely made up of WNBA All-Stars and franchise players. Because of that, the superstars on the team generally do not have to play extended minutes most games.

Throughout the Group Stage, we have seen veterans like Bird, Delle Donne and Griner play limited minutes, which has allowed them time to rest. Because of that, Staley was able to experiment with the younger players, like Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson, who have shined during the Group Stage games.

Team USA definitely looks beatable after the three Group Stage games, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Americans lose to a top-ranked European team. But, in the long run, investing more minutes into younger players across the board will better solidify the USA’s place at the top for years to come.

Up next in FIBA World Cup competition

The United States will play their next game on Friday in the quarterfinals against either Nigeria or Greece, who will compete in the quarterfinal qualifiers on Wednesday.

Below are the game times for the quarterfinal qualifiers.

  • 6:30 a.m. ET - China vs. Japan - The winner of this game will play Australia on Friday.
  • 9 a.m. ET - Nigeria vs. Greece - The winner of this game will play Team USA.
  • 12:30 p.m. ET - France vs. Turkey - The winner of this game will play Belgium.
  • 3 p.m. ET - Spain vs. Senegal - The winner of this game will play Canada.