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USA Wraps Up Olympic Pre-Qualifying With 104-48 Win Over Colombia

With a 104-48 win over Colombia (1-2), the USA Women’s National Team (12-1, 3-0) finished its FIBA Olympic Pre-Qualifying slate with a 3-0 record on Sunday night in Bahía Blanca, Argentina.

The USA National Team will break for two months before gathering in Hartford, Connecticut, ahead of its winter collegiate games against University of Connecticut on Jan. 27 and the University of Louisville on Feb. 2.

“This first segment, when you combined a college tour that transitioned right into a FIBA event, it’s not an easy transition,” said USA co-coach Dan Hughes (Seattle Storm). “There was a lot of travel, but what a great experience for the players, the coaches and the people who bonded during this time. A lot of times, what you get off the court means as much as what you get on the court. You learn to share a purpose, and that will continue to benefit us moving forward.”

A’ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces/South Carolina) led the USA with 23 points and nine rebounds; Diamond DeShields (Chicago Sky/Tennessee), who also grabbed nine rebounds, and Arike Ogunbowale (Dallas Wings/Notre Dame) both scored 17 points; and Kelsey Plum (Las Vegas Aces/Washington) finished with 10 points and five assists.

“That was our main goal, to finish this out strong,” said Wilson. “Coach was just telling us to close out – close out the half, close out the quarter and close out the game. I think that’s something that we do very, very well. We have our slip-ups of course, but we always regain our focus and understand why we’re here. So, for us to go 3-0 here is great. And it’s an honor to be in this position, to play against these teams, to get this chemistry going.”

Skylar Diggins-Smith (Dallas Wings/Notre Dame) dished out nine assists, and Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury/Connecticut) added five of the USA’s 32 assists.

“I felt like we got better every game,” said Diggins-Smith, who averaged 3.6 assists per game for the USA over its seven games in November. “Obviously, we have a lot of talent on this team, a lot of depth. Each game we had different players step up and lead. It’s been a great experience over here. The people at the Dow Center in Bahía Blanca were very welcoming to us. The fans were really nice, and it was great to finish this tournament with a third win. We could have made excuses along the way, but at the end of the day we took care of business, we played together, and we got better every game.”

The first quarter saw the USA lead initially, before Colombia went ahead 9-6, but the USA ended the first 10 minutes up 20-14. Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx/LSU), Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks/Stanford) and Wilson each had four points, and the USA was ahead on the boards 16-7.

Colombia narrowed the gap to four points in the second quarter, 27-23, but the USA was up 13 points at halftime, 40-27. At the midway point, the USA had just five turnovers, while Colombia had committed only three.

Colombia could not stay close to the USA in the second half, which put up 26 points in the third quarter, while limiting Colombia to just nine points.

The fourth quarter saw the USA score an impressive 38 points, and Colombia added 12 point as the USA earned the 104-48 win.

The USA finished the game with a 50-27 rebounding advantage and shot 55.3% (42-76 FGs) from the field, while holding Colombia to just 32.3% (20-62 FGs) of its field goal attempts.

Sue Bird (Seattle Storm/Connecticut), who had back spasms, did not play.

The 2019-20 USA National Team is 12-1 overall, having previously earned a 6-0 mark and the gold medal in September at the FIBA AmeriCup and a 3-1 record in its fall college exhibition schedule.

“It’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint,” said Diggins-Smith, who prior to the USA’s seven games hadn’t competed since the end of the 2018 WNBA season. “I understand that. But it felt great to take a leap of faith and get back out there. My teammates gave me a lot of confidence. And then obviously Cheryl (Reeve), Dan (Hughes) and V.J. (Vickie Johnson), I continued to get little anecdotes from them. I’m just going to use this as a measuring stick to go back and try to get better, keep improving my game and try to get ready for January and another tough set of opponents.”

Following its exhibition college games in January and February, the USA will play in one of four 2020 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, despite already being qualified for the 2020 Olympics by virtue of its gold-medal finish at the 2018 FIBA World Cup.

The 2020 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, which will be played Feb. 6-9 and hosted by Belgium, China, France and Serbia, will feature a total of 16 teams split into four groups of four teams each, and the draw to determine the four groups will be held Nov. 27.

Japan, as Olympic host, also has a berth to the 2020 Olympics, and like the USA, finished undefeated and atop its group at one of the two Asia-Oceania Pre-Olympic Qualifiers.

In addition to the six nations listed above (Belgium, China, France, Japan, Serbia, United States), the following countries earned a slot to compete in the next round of 2020 Olympic qualifying play based either on results from the 2019 European Championship or the Africa, Americas and Asia-Oceania qualifying tournaments that concluded today: Mozambique and Nigeria from Africa; Brazil, Canada and Puerto Rico from the Americas; Australia, Japan and South Korea from Asia-Oceania; and Great Britain, Spain and Sweden from Europe.

“This has been a very beneficial period for us,” concluded Hughes. “And we have another one coming up in about two months. What I think is really great is that now you’ve got a little perspective in that we’re here, but can we go up another notch?”