The United States has qualified for the FIBA Women’s World Cup quarterfinals with their 77-63 victory against China. Thanks to the victory, they became the only unbeaten team in Group A. Meanwhile, the game against China was the first game for the U.S. in the championship, and they played with their whole squad as some of their players couldn’t join the team earlier due to a limited amount of time between the conclusion of the 2022 WNBA season and the start of the World Cup.
A’ja Wilson was the final player to arrive in Sydney, and she went crazy in the game, finishing with 20 points and eight rebounds off the bench. She played a mercurial role in the victory with her fellow NBA champion Chelsea Gray. Gray scored 12 points, six rebounds, and three assists.
“It felt great,” Gray said in the postgame press conference. “It was like a moment of like, “Aaah,” being back in the USA Jersey like it feels good. There’s another level of putting that on, and seeing some familiar faces and now not playing against them and being able to pass them the ball is wonderful. So it was good, it was good. I loved every second of it,” she added.
Meanwhile, the Connecticut Sun’s forward, Alyssa Thomas, had two consecutive triple-doubles in the WNBA Finals. She was the third one to score double figures. She scored 12 points, eight rebounds, and five assists.
Wilson, Gray, and Thomas had to make room for their minutes because they rejoined the national squad. For instance, in the third game of her maiden tournament with the USA Basketball Senior National Team, New York Liberty player Sabrina Ionescu did not touch the floor. Additionally, Wilson’s teammates Brionna Jones (Connecticut Sun) and Shakira Austin (Washington Mystics) did not participate in the game.
The fact that USA Basketball is emphasizing its seasoned players is not surprising. However, as the competition continues, it is crucial to incorporate players anticipated to rise in the knockout round into the rotation. Reeve continues to praise her team and the group of athletes that participated in the USA Basketball training camp conducted in Las Vegas before the World Cup.
“Getting this final roster fully together obviously was a bit more of a challenge for us. And I can’t say enough about the group that kind of got us off to the start—the group back in Vegas, you know, the bigger pool. Everyone has been so committed to making sure this was a success for us,” Reeve said.
Cheryl Reeve expressed gratitude to her pool of players both in Sydney & who were together in Las Vegas. She is eager to get into a rhythm with rotations now that she has a full World Cup roster.
— Black Rosie Media (@BlackRosieMedia) September 24, 2022
“Getting all our players here, means that hopefully, you don’t have to overdo it with minutes, especially as difficult as this number of games in a limited number of days (will be). And so we tried to be mindful of that, you know, today and found different lineups that we liked and just kind of experimenting … we’ll get better and better at that in terms of rotations and making sure that the minutes are spread out,” she added.
Despite being unbeaten, the USA has played three hard games against China, Puerto Rico, and Belgium. Meanwhile, it will be intriguing to watch how Reeve and her staff handle the next two preliminary games now that the USA has won the first four positions in the quarterfinals.
China is still the best team in Group A despite losing to the United States by a score of double digits. They were level with four points each heading into Saturday’s matchup. In their opening two games against South Korea and Bosnia and Herzegovina, they scored more than 100 points in each contest.
Meanwhile, Coach Reeve joked that she didn’t want them to make further strides when asked to comment on China’s advancements. However, China and Belgium will probably be the next two teams to join the U.S. in the quarterfinals from Group A.
“I’m not on their side, and I’m not there every day in their practices, and I don’t want them to improve that much more,” she gave a witty remark before adding, “We have all the respect in the world for China, we’ve seen them grow … this is a great time for the Women’s National Team. It’s a great time. It’s a very, very good team.”