The USA Basketball women’s national team defeated the USA Select Team. We expected that. This is the best team in the world and they better beat the “B squad” if you will. However, I was a bit surprised to see that the Select Team only lost by 4. The final score was 88-84.
This was a very competitive game from start to finish. Even though the national team led by 12 at the end of the third quarter, and the Select Team led by 11 early on, I always expected to see the opposition exchange another punch. And it happened!
The fourth quarter was probably the most exciting period to watch because they came back from a 67-55 deficit and led by two points with 3:39 left and once again with 1:13 left in the game when Natasha Howard made three free throws. In fact, she scored 18 points in that period alone.
However, Breanna Stewart made a layup at the next possession for the national team, and the Select team was unable to score again for the rest of the game.
For the national team, Maya Moore and Elena Delle Donne scored 11 points each, and every national team player scored in the game. For the select team, Jewell Loyd had 20 points and 7 assists. In fact, she played almost the entire game. Howard led all scorers with 24 points in just 22 minutes, and Odyssey Sims scored 17 points and dished 6 more assists.
Let’s get to the main takeaways from the game.
Stefanie Dolson made little impact for the Select Team
I wanted to make this recap Mystics-centric and focus more on Dolson and Kahleah Copper. However, Copper did not play, and didn’t dress. Dolson played the least of all of the players on the Select Team. She was scoreless in just under ten minutes of action, but she did dish three assists and grab three rebounds.
Dolson’s highlight was this pass to a cutting Kiah Stokes in the third quarter.
It was a nice play, but ultimately, I don’t know if she comes out ahead after the weekend.
It’s not fair to judge whether Dolson is hurting her stock from just one game and a couple days of practice. But she has practiced and played for Team USA last year. She was also a finalist for this year’s team, even though it was a long shot for her to make it.
But when she played the least among the Select Team players who did play, given her resume with USA Basketball, it’s not exactly promising that Dolson’s on a fast track to get the next center spot for the 2018 FIBA World Cup
The future of USA Basketball is bright
I’m particularly proud of the way the Select Team played tonight. They were sloppy with the turnovers (they committed 18), but part of that is also because this is a hodge-podge squad compared with the national team, which has nine returning players from the 2012 Olympic team.
The Select triumvirate of Sims, Loyd, and Howard played spectacular basketball. And of these three, I think Sims and Loyd will be on the fastest track to earning national team spots. Howard’s WNBA stats have so far looked a little pedestrian — and she is a backup for the Lynx — but after that fourth quarter today, she definitely came with an intent to show that she too deserves a chance to play on future USA teams and perhaps get some more playing time for Minnesota.
That said, why couldn’t Team USA be a bit younger?
As I mentioned in the preview, the American roster’s average age is 30, which is very high. Among the players on the roster, four of them are at least 34 years old. I’m not sure if it was necessary to have all of Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Tamika Catchings, and Lindsay Whalen on there.
The Select team got things going very quickly and raced to a quick 11 point lead before the first quarter ended. Part of it was because their fast break game was on point with plays like this:
After the final buzzer ended, the Select Team scored 19 fast break points while the national team had just 11. This is an area where the national team can be vulnerable considering the advanced age of many key players.
There’s no doubt that the USA Basketball Women’s National Team as constructed is still the most talented team in the world. They’re heavy favorites to win the Gold Medal and the Select Team could very well be the one squad who was able to go toe to toe with them for an entire game.
However, the National Team just got a wake up call that they are indeed beatable. Hopefully we’ll see them be a bit more aggressive at the foul line (they only attempted 12 shots vs. the Select Team’s 21) and find a way to limit opponents’ fast break opportunities.