USA Basketball tops UConn as teams honor Kobe, Gigi Bryant

Photo Credit: Hartford Credit/Getty Images

In many ways, it was another exhibition contest for USA Basketball as the United States Basketball Women’s National Team did battle against the UConn Huskies at XL Center in Hartford.

But it was obvious to anyone who was watching or anyone who attended that something was missing.

Or, more importantly – someone.

The game took place on Jan. 27 – one day after the tragic deaths of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others aboard a helicopter that wrecked outside of Los Angeles and leaving no survivors.

There were plenty of remembrances throughout the game. At its outset, Team USA won the tip and committed an eight-second violation. UConn followed with a 24-second shot clock violation.

In addition, there was also a video tribute to Kobe and the UConn bench had a seat with a No. 2 jersey and flowers in honor of Gianna, who had expressed she wanted to play for the Huskies in her journey to the WNBA.

The contest, while only an exhibition, was not only newsworthy for remembering the Mamba and Mambacita. It was also the first time that we saw Breanna Stewart in action since injuring her Achilles while playing overseas last year in Europe.

UConn alums Sue Bird, Tina Charles and Katie Lou Samuelson also took the court for the Stars and Stripes. Team USA only led UConn 52-51 heading into the fourth quarter prior to outscoring the Huskies 25-8 en route to a 79-64 win in Hartford, ensuring no repeat of the loss to Sabrina Ionescu and Oregon would take place.

Sylvia Fowles led Team USA with 19 points along with nine rebounds and five assists. Nneka Ogwumike scored 14 points in addition to mustering five rebounds off the bench. Kayla McBride scored 12 off the bench.

Stewart started and her only points in the game came off a made three. She played 17 minutes – only Skylar Diggins-Smith played less among Team USA’s starters. Samuelson played seven minutes and tallied two points.

The Huskies’ Megan Walker led all scorers with 22 points plus seven rebounds. Crystal Dangerfield recorded 11 points, four assists and three steals. Olivia Nelson-Ododa scored 10 points, hauled in six rebounds and sent out three assists. Anna Makurat scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds off the bench.

The next time we will see USA Basketball take the court will be in early February as Cheryl Reeve leads the team into the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament on Feb. 6-9 in Belgrade, Serbia. Team USA faces Serbia on Feb. 6, Mozambique on Jan. 8, then Nigeria’s D’Tigress on Jan. 9.

UConn returns to competition against its college foes on Thursday night at the Gampel Pavilion in Storrs when they face the Cincinnati Bearcats for Huskies and Heroes Night.

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