The Women’s National Team’s Olympic journey got off to a high-stakes start as they were tested well into the waning minutes of Monday’s first exhibition matchup with the USA Select Team.
Of course, the National Team came in as the clear favorite but the Select Team was made up of the next generation of WNBA stars and likely would be competing for a medal if they were traveling to Rio. Up-and-comers Odyssey Sims and Jewell Loyd combined for 37 points for the Select Team, while Minnesota’s Natasha Howard recorded a game-high 24 points in just 18 minutes of game action.
Despite the resilient competition, the Women’s National Team got their first win as a group in 2016, and started their quest for a sixth-straight gold medal in winning fashion. Maya Moore and Elena Delle Donne led the way with 11 points apiece.
Now, the squad will travel to the Bob Carpenter Center at the University of Delaware to take on some real international competition in the way of France. Here’s what to look for out when they take the floor Wednesday at 7:30 EST.
EDD Back On A Familiar Floor
The reigning WNBA MVP honed her aptitude with a basketball inside the Bob Carpenter Center before dominating on the professional level. In four seasons with the Blue Hens, she averaged 26.7 points and grabbed 8.9 rebounds per game. It’s been the same kind of production for EDD with the Sky and now she hopes for an equal amount of success wearing the red, white and blue.
In her first game with the National Team, Delle Donne’s 11 points were tied for a team-high. Against France, EDD will have a chance to represent the United States for the first time inside the gym that made her a national sensation. She will be looking to make a statement.
Delle Donne on what the team needs to work on:
“We are everyone’s championship game. Every single team wants to beat Team USA. If they lose to every other team in the world but can somehow beat us, they’d be happy with that. We always have to play with a chip on our shoulder and be just as hungry.”
Experience In The Backcourt Goes A Long Way
Two players that have four gold medals between them and a gulf of Olympic experience are Lindsay Whalen and Diana Taurasi. These two established superstars flourish with the ball in their hands and will provide creativity for the Women’s National Team when the Games get underway. Both were keen on getting their teammates involved against the Select Team, dishing out five assists each. The more Taurasi and Whalen, the better.
Taurasi on the team’s first action together:
“Looking on our side, we’re excited to get going. Today was just the tip of the mountain for this team. We’re going to get a lot better in a lot of areas and it was good to go out there and play a competitive game, a game where you look up and you have to make plays at the end of games and it kind of solidifies who you’re going to be as a team.”
Stewart Continues To Find Her Role
Breanna Stewart entered the WNBA to a chorus of fanfare and has only seen the praises continue through her rookie season. The three-time Rookie of the Month winner has the Rookie of the Year Award all but locked up and is making a push into the MVP conversation in her first season.
But, playing for the Women’s National Team is a whole different experience, and one where Stewart is still finding her role. She had a solid debut with the eight points against the Select Team but she’s capable of so much more. Stewie will be the face of United States women’s basketball for years to come, but these first games are crucial to getting her off to the right start
Stewart on adjusting to her role with the National Team:
“Yeah, I’m just focused on just doing whatever I can, whenever I get in the game, making sure I’m producing, whether it’s a rebound or an assist or points, and trying to always bring energy off the bench.”
Brittney Griner’s Offense In The Paint
The Mercury’s stalwart big is a proven menace on the defensive end of floor but against the Select Team it was Griner’s offense that turned heads. In just 11 minutes of game action, Griner scored eight points on a flawless 4-for-4 shooting from the field. France’s tallest player is 6’6″ which means the 6’8″ Griner will have a height advantage all night long.
Griner on playing in the Olympics:
“I’m super excited. I wanted to enlist when I was younger. My dad enlisted in the military. I have a lot of military and law enforcement in my family. To be able to play for my country means everything to me and my dad.”