Oct. 1, 2011
MONTE DI PROCIDA, Italy -
Courtesy USA Basketball
Swin Cash (Seattle Storm) scored a team-high 17 points to lead the 2011 USA Basketball Women's National Team (2-0) to a hard-fought 78-68 victory over Ros Casares Valencia (1-1) in Monte di Procida, Italy.
Cash, who averaged 14.5 ppg. and 7.5 rpg. in the two-night, four-team tournament, was named MVP and Brittney Griner (Baylor University) listed as the best post player after averaging 12.5 ppg. and 7.5 rpg. off the bench.
In addition to Cash's 17 points, the USA's scoring was paced by 16 from Renee Montgomery (Connecticut Sun). Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun) just missed a double-double after posting 15 points and nine rebounds; Griner, who had three fouls on the books in the first half, finished with 10 points and eight rebounds; Cappie Pondexter (New York Liberty), who was also hampered by three first-half fouls, and former Lady Bear Sophia Young (San Antonio Silver Stars) chipped in eight points apiece, while Danielle Robinson (San Antonio Silver Stars) scored four.
"This was a completely different game than last night in the sense that this is one of the top teams in Europe," said Geno Auriemma, 2009-12 USA National Team and University of Connecticut head coach. "They're well-drilled. Their coach is excellent. They shot the ball incredibly well in that whole first half. We had some foul problems, but I thought our guys did a great job of attacking them and getting them into foul trouble.
"Swin throughout these past two games has been exactly what Swin's always been. She's a high-energy player who's around the ball all the time and makes big plays. She had a couple offensive rebounds and put-backs that I thought were exactly what we needed when we needed them. She is a leader out there for them."
Featuring a roster filled with some of the top talent in Europe, including several Olympians and FIBA World Championship participants, Ros Casares was a tough opponent from the start and took an early 7-4 lead four minutes into the game. Cash tied the score at 7-7 after making one of two from the line at 5:13 and Charles followed with a bucket at 4:41 to give the U.S. a lead it would never relinquish.
Going up 21-15 at the end of the first quarter, the U.S. looked to be pulling away after opening the second stanza on a 9-2 run to expand the lead to 30-17 with 7:30 to go before halftime. However, by that time Pondexter had two fouls and was sent to the bench. Ros Casares, which connected on five 3-pointers in the first half, began to chip away at the lead and cut it to nine points, 42-33, with 2:03 left in the half. Montgomery stepped to the line and gave the U.S. a double-digit lead again, but Ros Casares managed to outscore the U.S. 7-0, which included a perfect 4-of-4 from the line, and at the half the USA's 13-point lead was cut to four, 44-40.
One of the fouls in the first half was erroneously marked on Griner, giving her three by halftime, and Pondexter picked up her third midway through the second quarter.
"Ros Casares is a very physical team," said Cash. "They have very good players. We knew, with them having Ann Wauters, that she was going to be a physical presence on the block. I was really just happy with our post players, with Tina, with Brittney, just holding their ground down low, playing solid defense and rebounding the basketball."
Wauters, who scored 26 points on 11-of-17 from the field and hauled in 16 rebounds, scored her side's first six coming out of the break and after a Silvia Dominguez three, the Spanish club was on the brink of retaking the lead, having whittled it to one point, 50-49, at 6:50.
A put-back from Charles was followed by a Robinson steal and Montgomery layup as the U.S. got back on track. Ros Casares responded with a pair of threes, which were wedged around another Montgomery fast-break layup, and with 15:13 to play in the contest, the score was 56-55, USA.
Griner hit a turn-around jumper at the top of the key at 4:05 that keyed a 10-4 American run that gave the red, white and blue some breathing room at the end of the third quarter, 66-59.
Both sides turned up the defensive pressure in the fourth quarter, but Ros Casares was only able to narrow the gap to six points, 68-62, after another three at 9:38. The USA countered that with several defensive stops and six consecutive points to go up 74-62 at 7:20 and held off Ros through the remainder of the game.
"We had a stretch there in the second half, where I thought the game was decided," said Auriemma. "We got five or six shots in a row and converted on three or four of them. I thought that was the deciding factor in the game."