BASKETBALL: U.S. women sweep to 10th World Cup title

Three FIBA World Cups in a row for the United States women (Photo: FIBA)

It wasn’t a breeze, but the United States women’s national team won its 10th FIBA World Cup title, beating Australia, 73-56, in the final in Tenerife in the Canary Islands of Spain.

The American squad got out to a 10-0 lead, but the game got tighter in the second quarter and the U.S. had a modest 35-27 lead at the half. But another decisive third quarter decided the issue, as the U.S. outscored the Aussies, 26-11 for a 61-38 lead.
Crucial to the American success was control of Australia’s 6-8 center Liz Cambage, who set a single-game WNBA scoring record earlier in the year, pouring in 53 points for Dallas against New York last July.

But with a lot of attention from American center Brittney Griner and a swarming U.S. defense that caused 19 turnovers, Cambage was just 2-10 from the field and scored just seven points. Compare that to her average of 27.2 points-a-game coming in and it was going to be hard for Australia to keep up.

In fact, Australia shot just 32.8% from the floor in the final and was held to 27 points below its tournament average of 83.0. The U.S. actually wasn’t much better, shooting only 35.8% from the field and lost the rebound battle, 49-46, but made 17-23 free throws vs. 8-12 for Australia.

Griner led the U.S. with 15 points in just 24 minutes, followed by wing Diana Taurasi (13) and Breanna Stewart with 10, and a team-high eight rebounds. Cambage led all rebounders with 14.

Both teams were undefeated at 5-0 in the tournament coming into the final. The Australians won their group and then pummeled China, 83-42 in the quarterfinals and edged Spain, 72-66, in their semi. The U.S. defeated Nigeria, 71-40 in the quarters and skipped past Belgium, 93-77 on the strength of a 33-18 third quarter that broke the game open. Taurasi was outstanding in the semi, with 26 points and five three-pointers that were critical.

The tournament All-Star Five included Cambage, Stewart (named Most Valuable Player), Taurasi, forward Emma Meesseman (BEL) and forward Astou Ndour of Spain. The final standings:

1. United States
2. Australia
3. Spain
4. Belgium
5. France
6. China
7. Canada
8. Nigeria
9. Greece
10. Japan
11. Senegal
12. Turkey
13. Latvia
14. Korea
15. Argentina
16. Puerto Rico

The victory continued an amazing run of dominance for the U.S., which has won consecutive Olympic gold medals in 1996-2000-04-08-12-16 and three consecutive World Cup titles in 2010-14-18 and five of the last six. The U.S. women have now won 22 straight in World Cup play; ESPN reported that the U.S. women are now 100-1 in Olympic/World Cup/FIBA Americas Championship play from the 1996 Games in Atlanta through 2018.

It’s the 10th World Cup win all-time for the U.S., who won the first two editions in ‘53 and ‘57, then again in 1979-86-90-98-2002-10-14-18. Its last loss was in a semifinal to Russia in the 2006 tournament. This year’s win was the fifth World Cup gold for Sue Bird and fourth for Taurasi.

Only four nations have ever won this tournament: the U.S. has 10 golds, followed by the Soviet Union (6) and Brazil (1: 1994) and Australia (1: 2006).

The full schedule of matches and scores are here.