USA Women’s National Team Fights Past Ros Casares Valencia 78-68
Monte di Procida, Italy. • Oct. 1, 2011
Swin Cash (Seattle Storm) scored a team-high 17 points to lead the 2011 USA Basketball Women’s National Team (2-0) to a hard-fought 78-68 victory over Ros Casares Valencia (1-1) in Monte di Procida, Italy. In the earlier game, Famila Schio (1-1) utilized a 21-8 third-quarter to bypass host Pallacanestro Pozzuoli (0-2) 69-52.
Cash, who averaged 14.5 ppg. and 7.5 rpg. in the two-night, four-team tournament, was named MVP and Brittney Griner (Baylor University) listed as the best post player after averaging 12.5 ppg. and 7.5 rpg. off the bench.
In addition to Cash’s 17 points, the USA’s scoring was paced by 16 from Renee Montgomery (Connecticut Sun). Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun) just missed a double-double after posting 15 points and nine rebounds; Griner, who had three fouls on the books in the first half, finished with 10 points and eight rebounds; Cappie Pondexter (New York Liberty), who was also hampered by three first-half fouls, and Sophia Young (San Antonio Silver Stars) chipped in eight points apiece, while Danielle Robinson (San Antonio Silver Stars) scored four.
“This was a completely different game than last night in the sense that this is one of the top teams in Europe,” said Geno Auriemma, 2009-12 USA National Team and University of Connecticut head coach. “They’re well-drilled. Their coach is excellent. They shot the ball incredibly well in that whole first half. We had some foul problems, but I thought our guys did a great job of attacking them and getting them into foul trouble.
“Swin throughout these past two games has been exactly what Swin’s always been. She’s a high-energy player who’s around the ball all the time and makes big plays. She had a couple offensive rebounds and put-backs that I thought were exactly what we needed when we needed them. She is a leader out there for them.”
Featuring a roster filled with some of the top talent in Europe, including several Olympians and FIBA World Championship participants, Ros Casares was a tough opponent from the start and took an early 7-4 lead four minutes into the game. Cash tied the score at 7-7 after making one of two from the line at 5:13, and Charles followed with a bucket at 4:41 to give the U.S. a lead it would never relinquish.
Going up 21-15 at the end of the first quarter, the U.S. looked to be pulling away after opening the second stanza on a 9-2 run to expand the lead to 30-17 with 7:30 to go before halftime. However, by that time Pondexter had two fouls and was sent to the bench. Ros Casares, which connected on five 3-pointers in the first half, began to chip away at the lead and cut it to nine points, 42-33, with 2:03 left in the half. Montgomery stepped to the line and gave the U.S. a double-digit lead again, but Ros Casares managed to outscore the U.S. 7-0, which included a perfect 4-of-4 from the line, and at the half the USA’s 13-point lead was cut to four, 44-40.
One of the fouls in the first half was erroneously marked on Griner, giving her three by halftime, and Pondexter picked up her third midway through the second quarter.
“Ros Casares is a very physical team,” said Cash. “They have very good players. We knew, with them having Ann Wauters, that she was going to be a physical presence on the block. I was really just happy with our post players, with Tina, with Brittney, just holding their ground down low, playing solid defense and rebounding the basketball.”
Wauters, who scored 26 points on 11-of-17 from the field and hauled in 16 rebounds, scored her side’s first six coming out of the break and after a Silvia Dominguez three, the Spanish club was on the brink of retaking the lead, having whittled it to one point, 50-49, at 6:50.
A put-back from Charles was followed by a Robinson steal and Montgomery layup as the U.S. got back on track. Ros Casares responded with a pair of threes, which were wedged around another Montgomery fast-break layup, and with 15:13 to play in the contest, the score was 56-55, USA.
“They hit a lot of shots in a row,” said Montgomery. “You know, at a certain point you think, ‘well, not every shot’s going to fall.’ But, for a stretch there, they were really making everything they put up and that’s partly them hitting shots and it’s us also not contesting as much as we should.”
Griner hit a turn-around jumper at the top of the key at 4:05 that keyed a 10-4 American run that gave the red, white and blue some breathing room at the end of the third quarter, 66-59.
Both sides turned up the defensive pressure in the fourth quarter, but Ros Casares was only able to narrow the gap to six points, 68-62, after another three at 9:38. The USA countered that with several defensive stops and six consecutive points to go up 74-62 at 7:20 and held off Ros through the remainder of the game.
“We had a stretch there in the second half, where I thought the game was decided,” said Auriemma. “We got five or six shots in a row and converted on three or four of them. I thought that was the deciding factor in the game.”
Ros nailed nine 3-pointers in the contest (9-25 3pt FGs), which helped the Spain team stay close, while the U.S. was 0-of-2 from beyond the arc. However, the USA shot a sizzling 52.6 percent (30-57 FGs) from the field, while limiting Ros Casares to 38.2 percent (26-68 FGs) of its tries. The American women also outrebounded their opponent 41-30.
The U.S. will practice with Pallacanestero Pozzouli on Sunday evening before traveling to Valencia, Spain, for a rematch against Ros Casares on Oct. 5. The squad will then face 2011 Czech league champion ZVVZ-USK Prague in the Czech Republic on Oct. 8; and close out the tour in Hungary against Hungarian Cup and Hungarian Championship winners UNIQA-Euroleasing Sopron on Oct. 9.
“The team’s talking about how great (Ros Casares is) at home and how crazy their fans are,” said Robinson on the Oct. 5 contest against the strong Valencian squad. “So, really we have to go in there rested. Tomorrow will be a great day for us to be kind of light. Then we’ll get there and get some rest. But it’s all about playing hard and just outworking them on every single possession.”
Asjha Jones (Connecticut Sun) has a sore right knee, did not play and is listed as day-to-day.
While the USA’s European tour games are not televised in the U.S., fans can get in-game updates via USA Basketball’s Facebook and Twitter accounts at facebook.com/usabasketball and twitter.com/usabasketball, respectively.
Doug Bruno (DePaul University), Jennifer Gillom, who will also serve as an assistant coach for the 2011 USA Pan American Games Team, are assisting Auriemma and the USA National Team during its 2011 European tour.
Four-time defending Olympic gold medalists, the U.S. will look to capture a fifth straight gold medal and extend its 33-game Olympic winning streak at the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London. The Olympic basketball competition will be held July 28-Aug. 12 in the Olympic Park Basketball Arena and North Greenwich Arena. Four countries have claimed spots in the eventual 12-nation field, including host country Great Britain; the United States, which earned its berth by virtue of earning the gold medal at the 2010 FIBA World Championship; China, winner of the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship; and Russia, winner of the 2011 EuroBasket. Three additional teams will earn spots this year by claiming gold at the remaining two zone qualifying tournaments, FIBA Africa and FIBA Oceania, while the final five teams will earn their spots at the 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament (June 21-July 1 at a site TBD).