Two stories were all of the rage going into this year’s FIBA World Cup. One – the quick turnaround from the conclusion of the WNBA season that saw the Las Vegas Aces prevail in the Finals over the Connecticut Sun. Not to mention the laundry list of talent from the Finals that would be in the World Cup – including A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum, Chelsea Gray, Jonquel Jones, Brionna Jones and Alyssa Thomas.
The second was if any team would knock Team USA off of its perch as the No. 1 team in the world. When all was said and done, the United States remained atop said perch following its 83-61 victory over China in the gold medal game. In addition, the word “transition” was also a commonly used word when talking about this team given the team went into the tournament without a now-retired Sue Bird and a Diana Taurasi who is flirting with mother time.
The year 2022 has been the year of No. 22. Wilson added FIBA World Cup MVP honors to the WNBA championship she is still fresh off claiming a couple of weeks ago. If she already was one of the faces of the sport previously, she certainly is now – if not THE face of the sport.
The win also qualifies Team USA for the 2024 Olympics in Paris in a couple of years. Given how well USA Basketball has performed in international competition as of late, the red, white and blue ought to once again leave the five-ring circus in France also with gold.
Wilson also earned All-Star Five honors as did fellow Team USA teammate Breanna Stewart. China’s Han Xu, Canada’s Bridget Carleton and Australia’s Stephanie Talbot were also named to said All-Star Five – FIBA’s name for an all-tournament team.
The win for Team USA concluded a FIBA World Cup where they ran the table – a perfect 8-0 for the tournament. And it started in group play against Belgium.
🇺🇸 USA 87 Belgium 72 🇧🇪
Coach Cheryl Reeve’s team were sans Wilson, Gray and Plum as they were still fresh off the championship with the Aces. But there is far from a such thing as shorthanded with the USABWNT given the talent it boasts in every international tournament.
Team USA still pulled off a 87-72 victory despite being down the players that they were. And a big reason for that was because of Breanna Stewart and her 22 points. She also had four rebounds and three assists in that game. Jewell Loyd and Alyssa Thomas each chimed in with 14 points with Thomas’ performance also included nine assists and seven rebounds. Kahleah Copper also finished with 11 points and five rebounds.
Julie Vanloo led the Belgian Cats with 13 points and four assists. Another Julie (Julie Allemand) scored 10 in addition to dishing out four assists. Kyara Linskens grabbed 10 rebounds.
🇺🇸 USA 106 Puerto Rico 42🇵🇷
By the standards of Team USA, a 15-point victory against any opponent can be considered close. What the team pulled off against Puerto Rico in its second contest of group play looked more like vintage Team USA.
Still without its notables from Las Vegas, the Stars and Stripes made it look like a walk in an Australian park against Puerto Rico by a final of 106-42.
More of the roster that was available scored double-digits in points than did not in this game. The leading scorer here was Shakira Austin. Playing in her first FIBA World Cup, she scored 19 points and grabbed 10 points for a double-double. Copper finished with 16 points, four rebounds and four assists. This year’s WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year Brionna Jones (also from the Sun) added 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists to Team USA’s cause. Loyd scored 12 points. Stewart and Thomas also had 11 points with the former’s effort also including eight rebounds and three assists and the latter’s including six steals.
For Puerto Rico, Mya Hollingshed had 10 points and Arella Guirantes hauled in six rebounds.
🇺🇸 USA 77 China 63 🇨🇳
Things got real again for Team USA in what would turn out to be the first of two contests with China in this year’s FIBA World Cup. China, a team also with noteworthy names from the WNBA’s ranks, was expected to give the USABWNT all it could handle and then some. It did.
But, when all was said and done, Team USA successfully ran its record to 3-0 with a 77-63 win over the Chinese.
It was the first game where coach Reeve had the three Aces on its team. She had to be highly thankful given it was the start of Wilson’s eventually successful M’VP bid. Wilson scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Gray contributed 12 points, six rebounds and three assists to Team USA’s cause and Thomas tallied 12 of her own to go along with eight rebounds, five assists and five steals.
China saw three get into double-digits. The first was Meng Li who scored 21 points. Siyu Wang contributed 17 points, six assists and four rebounds to China’s cause and Han Xu dropped 12 points and grabbed six rebounds.
🇺🇸 USA 145 Korea 69 🇰🇷
The number 69 may be the nicest number there is, but it was anything but nice for Korea when they matched up against Team USA. It may be enough to get plenty of victories over other other teams in more defensively challenged affairs but not against the United States.
Especially when Team USA more than doubles your overall point output with a 145-point performance. That is an All-Star Game number as opposed to one from an international competition.
Jones led the way this time for Team USA with 24 points, eight rebounds and three steals, Wilson also finished with 20 points plus eight rebounds. Plum scored 19 points and sent out nine assists to go along with a three-rebound effort.
Stewart finished with 18 points plus three rebounds. Austin once again confirmed that she belongs on the international level as she scored 16 points and also hauled in eight or so rebound. This game featured a Betnijah Laney sighting as she scored 13 points and grabbed five rebounds. Copper did in terms of the 11 points and five rebounds she grabbed off the bench. Thomas had another Thomasesque game with 10 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals.
For Korea, Hyejin Park led all scorers with 17 and also sent out three assists. Leeseul Kang had 13 points with three rebounds. Jihyun Park scored 10 points.
🇺🇸 USA 121 Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 🇧🇦
In the final game of group (or pool) play, Team USA once again established that the path to get to the top of the medal stand went through red, white and blue.
This year’s USA Basketball rendition had already crossed the 100-point threshold on two previous occasions this tournament – including its last game. Against Bosnia and Herzegovina, they kept it 100 once again in commanding fashion with a 121-59 victory.
And it was another game where more of the roster finished with double-digit point totals than did not. Plum (WNBA All-Star Game MVP) turned out to be the leading scorer in this contest with 20 points in addition to seven assists and four rebounds. Gray’s outing looked reminiscent of many of those she had in this year’s playoffs as she went for 16 points and seven assists. Both Stewart and Austin chimed in with 15 apiece with Stewie adding seven rebounds. Jones and Wilson each contributed 14. Jones also had five rebounds and Wilson brought down four (plus four steals). Copper had 11 points and six rebounds.
Nikolina Elez finished with 19 points and four rebounds to lead Bosnia and Herzegovina. Nikolina Knezevic had 11 points, three rebounds and three assists. Jonquel Jones grabbed 10 rebounds. Milica Deura and Miljana Dzombeta each dished out four assists.
🇺🇸 USA 88 Serbia 55 🇷🇸
Team USA’s matchup against Bosnia and Herzegovina would be the final occasion where the USABWNT would reach the 100-point plateau. But as any coach – including coach Reeve – will tell one, there are no style points for pretty victories.
In the quarterfinals, there may not have been a 100-point outing for Team USA, but the victory still qualified as dominant as the team thrashed Serbia by a final of 88-55.
Plum paced USA Basketball with 17 points plus four assists. Wilson finished with 15 points and eight assists. Thomas was three assists shy of a triple double as she went for 13 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in addition to three steals.
Yvonne Anderson led the way for Serbia with 14 points plus seven assists, five rebounds and three steals. Jovana Nogic scored 11 points to go along with the five boards she hauled in.
🇺🇸 USA 83 Canada 43 🇨🇦
Next on the list for Team USA turned out to be its neighbors to its northern border in Canada – another team that has a laundry list of WNBA (and future pro) talent on its roster that included a Kia Nurse who was returning from injury.
That roster also included Carleton, Natalie Achonwa and Laeticia Amihere from South Carolina’s Gamecocks who are, of course, coached by former national team coach Dawn Staley.
All of that W talent mattered little to Team USA in the semifinals as coach Reeve’s assembling dispatched of Team Canada in dominating fashion by a final score of 83-43.
Stewart led all scorers in this get-together as she went for 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Wilson managed a double-double with 15 points, 12 rebounds and three steals. Plum finished with 14 off of the bench and Thomas tallied 10 points plus brought down three off the glass.
Amihere was Canada’s leading point-getter with eight points and Phillipini Kyei led the rebounding efforts for Canada with five boards.
🇺🇸 USA 83 China 61 🇨🇳
All that stood in the way of Team USA and another gold medal was a second get-together against a team that already gave them all they can handle and then some back during the group stage in China.
As expected, the Chinese played USA Basketball close through the first half as red, white and blue’s lead was 43-33 at the half. The gold medal really began to become closer in sight for Team USA after outscoring China 25-14 in the third quarter and when the clock hit triple zeroes, it was an 83-61 win for the USABWNT and a fourth consecutive FIBA World Cup gold.
The individual results from the championship game looked eerily similar to many of the matchups the Aces played in the recently completed WNBA playoffs. Wilson capped off what was an MVP performance with 19 points and five rebounds. Her Aces teammate Plum added 17 points with three assists off the bench. Loyd finished with 11 points and Gray finished with 10 points, eight assists, four rebounds and three steals. Ariel Atkins also added three steals.
As for China, Li Yueru (Chicago Sky) was tied for the lead among all scorers with 19 and she added 12 rebounds for a double-double that game. Wu Tongtong scored 13 points in addition to three assists and Wang Siyu finished with 11 points and three assists.