The 2014 USA Basketball Women’s World Championship Team (6-0) rolled through the 2014 FIBA World Championship undefeated and claimed a second-straight gold medal at the event with a dominating 77-64 win over Spain (5-1) on Sunday night at Fenerbahce Arena in Istanbul, Turkey.
The title, which was the USA’s ninth FIBA World Championship gold, earned the USA its place in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, and the USA is now 103-21 all-time in FIBA World Championship play. In all, the USA has captured nine gold medals, one silver medal and two bronze medals in 16 World Championships.
“It’s very difficult to win these championships,” said USA head coach Geno Auriemma (University of Connecticut), who now owns an overall 74-9 record coaching USA Basketball teams, including a 57-9 slate as head coach. “There’s a lot of great teams and they’re getting better all the time. You can tell by the games and it’s really, really difficult. For us to be able to do that, even though everybody expects us to do it, that doesn’t make it easier. Yesterday’s Australia’s game and today’s game against Spain were perfect examples of how difficult this is to win. I’m really proud of our team. These guys make a great sacrifice, because they just finished playing in their own league, in the WNBA, and a lot of them are getting ready to go play in Europe. So, it’s a tremendous sacrifice that they made for their country, and I can’t be more proud of them.”
Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx), who led five U.S. players in double-digit scoring with 18 points, was named MVP of the tournament, and she was joined on the all-tournament team by Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury), who added 11 points in the win, as well as Spain’s Alba Torrens and Sancho Lyttle and Australia’s Penny Taylor.
“It hasn’t really hit me,” Moore said. “I’m just excited that we won. If one of us is talking about what MVP means, it means our team won. So, that’s what I’m most excited about. I’m just grateful to be able to contribute to this phenomenal team. Just the legacy of USA Basketball is unparalleled.”
Sue Bird (Seattle Storm) became FIBA’s only women’s World Championship four-time medalist, as well as the most decorated FIBA World Championship athlete in history, male or female, having now won three golds (2002, 2010, 2014) and one bronze medal (2006).
“I had no idea,” Bird said of the accomplishment. “I think it really just speaks to, you know, I’ve had a lot of great coaches along the way, some amazing teammates along the way. I definitely didn’t do this by myself. And I just tried to be whatever it was that my team needed me to be, and tried to be consistent at that. And I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to do it for this long.”
The USA jumped to a 15-5 lead that included eight points from Moore, who made two 3-pointers in the first two minutes of the game, and Spain called a timeout at 6:06. Though Moore hit a third 3 out of the timeout to put the USA up 18-5, Spain worked its way back within seven points with a 3-pointer at 3:05 that made it 20-13. The seven-point spread remained as the teams when back and forth before Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx), who finished with 12 points, scored the last four points of the quarter to give the USA a 28-17 lead at the first break. Tina Charles (New York Liberty) also helped the USA get off to a hot start with eight first-quarter points, and she finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.
For a second-straight night, the USA also started off the game with stellar shooting, making 70.6 percent of its shots (12-17 FGs), while holding Spain to just 35.0 percent (7-20 FGs), though the USA did give up seven offensive boards.
“We started out really well, and we kept it going,” Whalen said. “It was a really great effort by everybody. Everybody did what they do. It was a great win. Spain is a great team. They fought hard. They had a really tough game last night against the host team in Turkey, so we wanted to come out and jump on them as early as possible.”
The USA added 11 unanswered points to start the second period to bring the run to a 15-0 stretch and take a 39-17 lead at 6:21. After Moore’s fourth 3-pointer that made it 44-21 at 4:16, Spain made a six-point run, but Griner ended that with two made free throws at 2:15 to bring the score to 46-27. Each team added two more points, and the USA headed to the halftime locker room ahead by 19 points, 48-29.
The U.S. defense continued to stifle Spain, which was shooting just 26.8 percent (11-41 FGs) at the midway point. Meanwhile, the USA was shooting 60.6 percent (20-33 FGs) and had recorded 15 assists, including seven from Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), who finished with eight assists in the game.
Spain scored first to start the second half, but the USA continued to improve upon its lead. A 6-0 stretch put the USA ahead 56-33 at 6:37, and after a 3-pointer from Spain and four points from the USA, Spain called a timeout at 4:25 with the USA up 24 points, 60-36. Helped along by two 3-pointers, however, Spain outscored the USA 12-7 from there to head into the final 10 minutes again trailing by 19-points, 67-48.
The USA held Spain scoreless for the first 4:14 of the final quarter and led 71-50, but Spain closed with a 14-6 scoring advantage before the buzzer sounded on the USA’s 77-64 victory.
Spain’s second-leading scorer Torrens, who came into the game averaging 16.6 points per contest, didn’t score until 4:08 in the third quarter and finished with 10 points, and its leading scorer Lyttle, who was scoring 18.6 points per game, finished with a team-high 16 points in the game.
Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx) reounded out the USA’s double-digit scorers with 10 points.
The U.S. defense never let Spain break free and held its opponent to 30.9 percent (25-81 FGs) shooting and put Spain on the line for just eight tries.
“We got off to a great start,” Bird said. “I mean, Maya came out hitting. We really did execute our game plan almost to a T, and it just got us going, and we were able to get that lead and hold on long enough.”
In the bronze medal game, Australia (5-1) beat host Turkey (4-2) 74-44.
In the fifth-eighth classification finals also played today, Canada (4-3) topped China (3-4) 61-53 for fifth place, and France (4-3) downed Serbia (3-4) 88-74 for seventh place. The complete final standings and the full schedule and results can be found at usabasketball.com.
Among the 16-team field, the USA led the competition in points per game (92.2), scoring margin (+28.8), field goal percentage (.542), field goal percentage defense (.323), 3-point percentage (.431), rebounding offense (50.8), rebounding defense (31.0), rebounding margin (19.8) and assists (22.3).
In the U.S. competition record book, as a team the USA set a record for rebounding average with 50.8 rebounds per game; and individually, Odyssey Sims (Tulsa Shock) was 5-of-6 from the field to set a record for field goal percentage (.833); Breanna Stewart (University of Connecticut) shot 7-of-7 from the free throw line (1.000) to tie for first in free throw percentage, while Nnemkadi Ogwumike’s (Los Angeles Sparks) 11-of-12 performance from the line (.917) tied for third; Griner lists No. 2 for blocked shots (12)
In all-time USA FIBA World Championship play, Bird has played a record 31 games and dished out a second-best 83 assists. Sims’ field goal percentage, and Stewart’s and Ogwumike’s free throw percentage marks also list first, first and second, respectively, in the career record book.
Auriemma was assisted on the sideline by DePaul University head coach Doug Bruno, Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve and University of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley; while University of Hartford head coach Jennifer Rizzotti served as an advance scout and court coach for the 2014 USA squad.
USA Basketball teams are the current men’s and women’s champions in the FIBA World Championships (FIBA Basketball World Cup for Men, FIBA World Championship for Women); men’s and women’s Olympics; men’s and women’s FIBA U19 and U17 World Championships; men’s and women’s U18 and U16 FIBA Americas Championships; the FIBA 3×3 Women’s World Championship; the FIBA 3×3 Women’s U18 World Championship and the women’s Youth Olympic Games