13/04/2024

The United States of America is looking to win its fourth consecutive FIBA Women's World Cup. (Photo: FIBA)

The United States couldn’t have gotten off to a better start in the FIBA Women’s World Cup.

The nation defeated Belgium by 15 points even without its three WNBA champion players from the Las Vegas Aces. As it prepares to take on Puerto Rico next, here are three takeaways from the opening clash.

Breanna Stewart hasn’t aged a day

Breanna Stewart is looking to win her third World Cup. (Photo: Olympics)

Entering her third World Cup, Breanna Stewart looked like she hadn’t aged a day.

The future FIBA Hall of Famer lit up the court in elegance and skill. She walked away as the top point-scorer of the game with 22, along with three assists. Her attack wasn’t even the best part of her game.

Matching up against 2022 WNBA All-Star Emma Meesseman, Stewart registered three steals and three blocks with her four rebounds. Her defensive performance limited Meesseman’s presence, only allowing her to score four points.

My name is ‘Alyssa Thomas’

Coming straight off a WNBA finals loss with the Connecticut Sun, Alyssa Thomas put on a performance for the ages. The three-time WNBA All-Star finished the game with an efficiency rating of 27.

During her time on the floor she accumulated 14 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. She was one assist away from the United States’ first double-double of the World Cup.

“We brought her over just for a quick session, to kind of say this is what we’re trying to get done,” United States coach Cheryl Reeve said.

“Honestly it’s what I expected Alyssa to do. That’s what she does, she’s just a competitor [and] knows how to play.

“She played multiple positions for us today and obviously right off the plane.

“WNBA players [like Alyssa] don’t get enough credit for how well they transition from overseas in WNBA to the national team with little time to get things figured out. I’m always very impressed by that.”

No Aces, no problems

The United States’ 15-point winning performance felt even better since they won without three star players. Currently celebrating in style after their WNBA finals win, the Las Vegas Aces trio were unable to make it to Sydney in time for the opening game.

It didn’t stop the United States from winning, putting on 87 points whilst only conceding 72 against one of the top teams in the World Cup. The trio will miss the next game against Puerto Rico but won’t gain their spot in the line-up easily.

The Aces trio consists of Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum and A’Ja Wilson. Gray was the WNBA Finals MVP, Plum a 2022 WNBA All-Star and A’Ja Wilson the MVP of the 2022 WNBA season.

Coach Cheryl Reeve will have a tough time deciding who deserves game time, when the United States get their full squad back.

“[We’ll] see what kind of shape they’re in when they get here,” coach Reeve said.

What’s Next?

The United States still didn’t look the best even with the win. Captain Breanna Stewart believes there is still a large range of improvement needed.

“We really need to improve on our turnovers, 19 was a lot. We’re expecting people to be in spots and we’re just not there,” Stewart said.

“Tomorrow is a new day to have better chemistry and play together.”

The United States will now go up against Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico shocked the tournament producing a surprising underdog win against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Stewart is expecting a hard fought game against their continental opponents.

“[We’re] expecting to see a lot of different defensive schemes from Puerto Rico, probably zone because of our size,” the Seattle Storm superstar said.

“Making sure that whenever someone shoots, there’s a contested shot and then we get in.”

The United States will now play Puerto Rico tomorrow morning at 10:30am. The game will be televised on ESPN through Foxtel or Kayo Sports.

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