Behind 19 points from a pair of players with Texas ties, Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks/Stanford) and Skylar Diggins-Smith (Dallas Wings/Notre Dame), the USA Women’s National Team (9-0, 3-0) powered its way to a 93-63 win over Texas A&M on Thursday night at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas.
“I’m just grateful for the opportunity, it’s overwhelming to be a part of the USA (team),” said Diggins-Smith, who connected on 5-of-8 3-point shots. “It’s good to be here and I’m just blessed to be here representing the USA. I’m playing with the best in the world, so it’s easy to play with great players. This team, it ain’t about necessarily doing what you do on your WNBA team. You have to give up a piece of yourself for the greater good of this team. The examples we have on this team, Sue (Bird) and Diana (Taurasi), who’ve been doing it (a long time), they lead by example every practice. They set the tone every game. I’m just trying to follow their lead and get in where I fit in, whatever is necessary for the team that night.”
Rounding out the USA double digit scoring was Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx/Louisiana State), who recorded 13 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, and Chelsea Gray (Los Angeles Sparks/Duke), who added 10 points.
“We appreciated coach Gary Blair letting us come here and play,” said Cheryl Reeve (Minnesota Lynx), USA lead coach for the team’s fall games. “Each of the teams along the tour pose a different challenge. In this particular game it was a great player in Chennedy Carter, who can do a lot of different things. So that was really good for us, to be challenged. I know that she had a good time. But overall, our mission is to win the game. I thought that our overall team play, Skylar was terrific, but our ability to put the ball in the hole from the 3-point line was a great separator. Nneka and Sylvia just terrorized people on the inside. We get that every game, but then (we were) knocking in 3s.
“It is really impressive to see Skylar play the way that she’s playing,” added Reeve. “I was really happy for her to be back in Texas and play so well.”
Starting slow, the USA fell behind early 7-2 and trailed for much of the first quarter. Down 22-20, the USA posted a 7-2 scoring run to grab a 27-24 lead with 1:09 left in the opening period. Following a pair of free throws from Ogwumike, who was born and raised in Houston, the red, white and blue had a 29-26 edge at the end of the first quarter.
Texas A&M junior guard Chennedy Carter converted two free throws to open the second quarter and pull the Aggies back within one, 29-28, but the USA responded with a 10-0 offensive spurt to open a 39-28 lead with 3:30 to play before half.
Leading 45-35 at halftime, the U.S. lead ballooned to 51-35 in the third quarter, but Texas A&M outscored the U.S. 10-3 to close the deficit to 54-45 with 6:40 to play in the third. Sue Bird (Seattle Storm/Connecticut) hit back-to-back 3-pointers to end the threat and help launch the USA on a run that saw the U.S. outscore Texas A&M 39-18 over the remainder of the game.
The USA finished shooting 44.9% (35-78 FGs) from the field, and a warmer 48.1% (13-27 3pt FGs) from beyond the 3-point arc, while Texas A&M ended the night shooting just 37.1 percent from the field, including 7-20 (.350) from 3-point.
The red, white and blue also dominated the glass, outrebounding the Aggies 54-30, including 23-8 on the offensive glass, which resulted in the USA scoring 23 second chance points. As expected, the USA bench heavily outproduced the Texas A&M bench by a 44-6 margin.
Kelsey Plum (Las Vegas Aces/Washington), who joined up with the team on Nov. 5, played in her first game for the 2019 USA squad and scored six points, connecting on 2-of-2 3-pointers.
“It’s awesome to be back with this team,” said Plum. “Any time you get to put on the jersey is an honor. I love playing in this type of college atmosphere, it’s really fun. They came out and played really hard and I thought our team did a great job weathering the storm, being able to execute and get some stops. It’s a lot of fun. Any role you play on this team is fun.”
Three-time USA Basketball medalist, Carter led the Aggies with 34 points, the most points scored by an athlete against the USA National Team in a collegiate exhibition game since Texas Tech University’s Michi Atkins scored 32 points in a 98-61 loss to against the 1995-96 USA National Team on Feb. 3, 1996.
The 2019-20 USA National Team is unbeaten in its first nine contests, having earned six victories and the gold medal at the FIBA AmeriCup in September and three wins thus far in November.
The USA will conclude its fall college exhibition schedule facing No. 1 ranked University of Oregon on Nov. 9 before traveling to Argentina for the FIBA Americas Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Plum, who capped her collegiate career at Washington as the NCAA Division I all-time leading scorer with 3,527 points (25.4 ppg.), is looking forward to heading back to the Pacific Northwest.
“The Oregon-Husky rivalry runs deep,” said Plum. “I don’t think I’ll get booed, but I don’t think they’ll be necessarily cheering for me (laughs). I’m excited though. I know a lot of people coming, so it should be fun. My sister was a Duck, so I have to try to stay a little bit neutral. But at the same time, I bleed purple.”
A’ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces/South Carolina), who averaged 20.0 points and 7.5 rebounds in the team’s first two games, did not play due to the death of a loved one. She also will miss the game at Oregon and rejoin the squad in time for the games in Argentina.