Getting points from all 12 team members and with five players in double-digit scoring, the USA (3-0) topped Argentina (1-2) 100-50 in preliminary round play at the 2019 FIBA AmeriCup on Wednesday evening in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Katie Lou Samuelson (Chicago Sky) scored 11 of her 16 points in the fourth quarter, and she added seven rebounds. Arike Ogunbowale (Dallas Wings) scored 14 points and had five assists. Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx) scored all 14 of her points in the first half. Brittney Sykes (Atlanta Dream) added 11 points, seven rebounds and six assists; and Diamond DeShields (Chicago Sky) contributed 10 points and five assists.
Jordin Canada (Seattle Storm) was responsible for nine of the USA’s 31 assists, and the USA outrebounded Argentina 49-32.
“I like the fact that we’re being challenged from a defensive standpoint,” said Dawn Staley, USA National Team and University of South Carolina head coach. “People are showing us different things. We like seeing challenges. We like taking people’s best, whatever they’re best at, we like to challenge ourselves to be able to disrupt that. I thought for stretches we did that against Argentina. I thought for stretches they were able to move the ball from east to west, and that’s something that we try to come into the game an eliminate.”
Fowles got the scoring started for a second-straight game, tallying the first seven points of a 9-0 opening U.S. run. And after points from four more U.S. scorers, the North Americans led 24-13 at the end of the first quarter.
Behind three-straight 3-pointers from Macarena Durso, Argentina was within 10 points of the USA in the second quarter, 32-22, but the USA responded with a 10-run and then led 47-24 at halftime. Fowles added seven more points in the second period, while the USA had 18 assists.
“We got a little bit out of whack in how we were defending the middle ball screen,” said Staley regarding Argentina’s second quarter spurt. “Once we got back on it and started playing with a little bit more pace, we started opening up the game. We’re going to get everyone’s best effort in the beginning of the game, but it’s a 40-minute game and I like our chances of winning a 40-minute game with the depth that we have.”
The USA dominated the third quarter, outscoring Argentina 24-9 to lead 71-33 with 10 minutes to play. This time it was Ogunbowale adding seven points to spark the USA in the third period.
And in the fourth quarter, the USA outscored Argentina 29-17 to bring the game to its final of 100-50.
“Argentina was really tough the whole game,” stated Samuelson. “They really put up a fight, got our posts having to work hard and be aware where they were and what they were doing on the court. So, we really felt that we needed to step up and bring that energy off the bench, especially since the starters have been really solid for us every single game.
“Being a shooter, you know that when you have a couple bad shooting games, that’s when you just need to keep shooting,” added Samuelson, who was 6-of-10 from the floor against Argentina after shooting just 3-of-14 in the first two games. “You don’t get in your own head about it, you just keep doing what you know how to do. So, I felt good. My teammates got me some really good open shots today, so I kind of got back into a rhythm.”
The USA will close preliminary play against also unbeaten Brazil (3-0) at 3 p.m. (all time listed are EDT) on Sept. 26. Both sides have already clinched a berth into the medal semifinals. However, a No. 1 seed out of Group B will be on the line. All of the USA games will be shown live on ESPN+.
“It’s really cool being able to play with all these great players,” commented Ogunbowale. “Obviously, you play against them in the WNBA season, a whole bunch of great players, and to be able to play on the same team as them, it’s a lot easier. I’d rather play with them than against them. It’s super fun, and I’m learning a lot. So, I’m excited to be a part of the team.”
In the other Group B game today, Brazil cruised past Paraguay (0-3) 101-59. In Group A action, Cuba (2-2) edged Mexico (0-3), and host Puerto Rico (2-1) defeated Dominican Republic (1-2) 81-56.
Ten nations are taking part in the 2019 AmeriCup. Following preliminary play, the top two teams from each group advance to the Sept. 28 semifinals, where the top team out of Group A will meet the second-ranked team from Group B and vice versa. The gold and bronze medal games will be held Sept. 29.
Dan Hughes (Seattle Storm), Cheryl Reeve (Minnesota Lynx) and Jennifer Rizzotti (George Washington), who assisted the USA to a gold medal at the 2018 FIBA World Cup, are serving as assistant coaches.
The USA National Team, which already has qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, will take advantage of and participate in FIBA’s new Olympic qualification process, that provides nations with two windows of competition, Nov. 10-18, 2019, and Feb. 2-10, 2020.
As was the case over the past three quadrenniums, the 2019-20 USA National Team roster, which currently lists 34 athletes, will be fluid. It is expected that the official, 12-member 2020 U.S. Olympic Team will be comprised of players from the 2019-20 USA National Team.
Chaired by USA Women’s National Team director Carol Callan, USA AmeriCup Team athletes were selected by the USA Basketball Women’s National Team Player Selection Committee, which currently includes three-time Olympic and two-time World Cup gold medalist Katie Smith as the athlete representative; representing the WNBA is Connecticut Sun head coach Curt Miller and Los Angeles Sparks general manager Penny Toler; and University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma, who coached USA teams to gold medals at the past two Olympics and FIBA World Cups, serves as a special advisor.