SYDNEY – A fair amount of uncertainty surrounded NBA as they entered a new chapter in the post-Sue Bird and… Diana Taurasi era.
But in front of a crowd of 15,895 fans at the Sydney Superdome – most of whom were enthusiastically supporting Team China – the new-look Team USA succeeded in cementing the legacy built by those who came before them by winning their fourth consecutive world title. Gold Cup and 11th overall behind China’s 83-61 victory in the final.
Only five players from the team that won their seventh consecutive Olympic gold medal in Tokyo dressed up in Sydney for red, white and blue. No bird, Turasic, Silvia FowlesAnd the Tina Charles or Britney Greiner. Having been defined for years by its experience and statesmanship, and tending mostly to feature players from a handful of elite schools, the team that took the floor instead featured a single 30-year-old, representatives from 10 collegiate programs and six newcomers To the first national team at this level of competition. Even head coach, Sheryl Reeve, who won four WNBA titles with Minnesota Linux He recently took command of one of the greatest dynasties in sport.
“Maybe around the world, they kind of looked at him and said, ‘Hey, now it’s time to get USA,'” Reeve said. “And I think what we’ve shown is that our leagues, the WNBA and the professional basketball players in the United States, are really good. And the depth of talent we had was obvious.”
In fact, the United States was undefeated by team play, winning by an average margin of 40.75 points and ending with just one game decided by less than 15 points. Their 22-point victory over China was the biggest margin of victory in a World Cup final, according to the International Basketball Federation (FIBA).
The United States has lost only one game in a major international competition (the World Cup or Olympic play) since 1994 – the 2006 World Cup semi-final against Russia – and has won 30 consecutive matches in the tournament since then.
“We know everyone wants to beat us. Everyone wants what we have, these gold medals and victories and things like that, and with that comes the pressure,” Brianna Stewart He said. “We have great players who handle that pressure and perform at the highest levels possible.
“It’s just embracing it [pressure]Not fighting it and knowing that all the legends that came before us, what they did, how they won, things like that, yeah, every team is different and we need to make our mark on history. “
With the win, the United States also officially qualified for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
While last year’s Olympic run in the Tokyo COVID-19 bubble seemed to carry an element of heft as the United States struggled to find a foothold throughout the event, the 2022 World Cup experience was marked by a sense of fun and lightness. With her hair wet with champagne at the post-match press conference, Reeve gently clicked Aja Wilson To see where you were supposed to be in the gold medal match and to give up 18 points in defense in the first half. With a bottle of champagne in hand, Wilson spent swathes of her second championship press in two weeks showcasing her Tissot watch as the tournament’s best player.
“According to my watch, we are gold medalists,” Wilson said. And later:[In the quarterfinals] Serbia came out to punch us in the mouth. And I was like, “Not in our guard.”
In other words: children are fine in the United States.
“What I wanted them to do was make sure this tournament was fun,” Reeve said. “I think there are times when you have pressure to win or perceived pressure, it takes the fun out of it. And I wanted to make sure we enjoyed this trip and I think this group was a great group. I know I had fun from hell and I hope they did too.”
Players across the board agreed with that sentiment. And the scariest of competition? The new look, the younger USA is not going anywhere, and he’s not planning to stop having fun anytime soon.
“I don’t think we’re showing signs of stopping, that’s for sure,” said Stewart, 27. “Our age has certainly waned [compared to Tokyo]. But we have a lot of people who are new to the league, and they are entering their prime. It’s hard to stop.”
Silver medalist China debuted at a World Cup final since 1994, the last time they won a medal in a major international competition. Hosts Australia took the bronze with a 95-65 win over Canada, as WNBA top player and former champion Lauren Jackson, who never stopped the sport and plays at 41, dropped 30 points in her last match with the opals.
Wilson’s World Cup MVP honor was another accolade after she picked up her second WNBA Player of the Year, first Defensive Player of the Year, and her first WNBA title of the season. She was joined by Bridget Carlton (Canada), Han Shuo (China), Stewart (USA) and Steve Talbot (Australia) in the All-Star Five.
“I’ve been here before, I’ve had guys at Aga’s place, where you win the WNBA, you come back and you win the gold,” Reeve said. “It’s really, really special. They make it look easy. It’s not. They’re so talented. Aja Wilson is so talented.”
“That’s the reason for the sacrifice,” Wilson added. “My teammates hold me accountable. They put me in the best shape so I didn’t really feel tired. That’s what we live for. This is honestly my job and I love my job. I love what I do and now I can go to sleep. I am so excited. My bed literally calls my name.”
Fresh from winning the WNBA title two weeks ago, Team USA Las Vegas Aces 2022 WNBA MVP Wilson trio, Chelsea Gray (Best Player of the 2022 Finals) and Kelsey Bloom (All-Star and WNBA picks for the first time) It was added to their trophy bag after a whirlwind period in which they tied up with the U.S. team after it began preparations for the event—in fact, he didn’t even show up until the third championship game.
Amid a rather slow start for the USA in the championship match, the trio was thrilled in the final, collecting 46 of the USA’s 83 points. Wilson scored 16 points in 16:35 in the first half to carry Team USA. After a five-point game at the end of the first quarter and a 10-point game in the first inning, the U.S. broke the first by 25-14 in the third to secure a comfortable fourth-place lead.
Joel Lloyd He was the other member of Team USA to score in double digits, finishing the team with 11 points.
China was without it Li Meng, their top scorer from the team’s first meeting in the tournament in a group match, with the United States winning by 14 points, due to illness. United States of America Kolaya copper She was sidelined for the second game in a row after injuring her thigh in the quarter-finals. Alyssa Thomas He fell down with an upper body injury in the second half but returned to the match shortly after in the locker room. Wu Tongtung He was also carried off the ground in the fourth quarter after sustaining a knee injury.
In their first session as captains, Stewart and Wilson were successfully named WNBA Player of the Year by the likes of Bird, Torassi, and Fowles. But the newcomers also immediately showed their influence, and there was no one like Thomas, as her teammates considered her the “glue” and the “best player in this tournament” before the tournament.
With Thomas as one of the focal points, the Reeve group – initially rolled out during the World Cup qualifiers in February – has been able to adopt a defensive identity that hasn’t been typical in recent years for the US national team. Reeve noted that the United States had 42 perverts against China in the gold-medal match. Most impressively, eight players from Team USA arrived in Sydney late, including five who played in the WNBA Finals and made it to Championship week.
“What makes me most happy is the trust and the purchase,” Reeve said. “Go back to Las Vegas and the group we had, back to February, and they helped us build that identity. Then great players like Aja came along and were able to get over the hump and keep the legacy.”
“I don’t see it as a burden,” Wilson said. “I think it’s just a starting point.” “We are planting the seeds for the next generation.
“It’s crazy because Stewie and I were taking a selfie, and we were like, ‘There’s a lot to come.’ I remember playing U16 with Stewie and winning a gold medal there, and now we’ve won medals at that level. So it was unbelievable, just the journey, to keep going. Laying that foundation. So many of the greats who were up front we’ve put that in, and now it’s our turn to step up and be in that position.”