Struggling with its shooting, the USA women (6-0) turned to its defense and claimed the 2019 FIBA AmeriCup gold medal with a 67-46 victory over previously undefeated Canada (5-1) on Sunday night in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The USA, playing in its first AmeriCup since 2007 when it also won gold, ended Canada’s streak of back-to-back AmeriCup titles with its perfect run.
The USA, which outscored its six opponents by 38.7 points a game during the tournament, featured three players on the AmeriCup All-Star Five Team – Jordin Canada (Seattle Storm), Diamond DeShields (Chicago Sky) and Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx), who was also named MVP of the tournament. Rounding out the All-Star team were Kayla Alexander (Canada) and Damiris Dantas (Brazil).
“I think I just went out there and played my game,” said Fowles on her MVP honor. “Normally when I’m on a platform like this, I tend to rush and speed up. I think I’m at the age now where I can slow down and let the game come to me. I think that’s what I did throughout this tournament, I just let the game come to me and played well for the most part.”
The USA winning effort in the gold medal game featured another balanced offensive showing. USA veterans Tina Charles (New York Liberty) and Fowles paced the USA with 12 points apiece, Canada added 11 points and Stefanie Dolson (Chicago Sky) finished with 10 points.
“We got off to a slow start,” said Dawn Staley, USA National Team and University of South Carolina head coach. “I thought we were forcing things a little bit. We played at Canada’s pace. Once we turned up our defense, got into transition and got some easy buckets, I thought we got into a better flow. Today, playing against Canada, when we needed to score, it came from our defense. It was really promising that we were able to bear down, get some stops and turn them into some easy transition buckets.”
In a game in which the U.S. shot just 36.1 percent (26-72 FGs) from the field and made only 2-of-15 3-pointers, the USA relied on its suffocating defense to shut down Canada. Canada was limited to 27.5 percent shooting from the field (19-69 FGs), 15.0 percent (3-20 3pt FGs) from 3-point, and forced into 18 turnovers.
“Our movement was kind of slow, but we did well on defense against Canada,” said Fowles. “It kind of slowed them down a little bit and made it hard for them to make shots. We tried to rebound off them and get out in transition, so it made it easier for us in that area.”
The USA also owned a 57-44 advantage on the glass and outscored Canada 21-9 in second-chance points. Charles and Napheesa Collier (Minnesota Lynx) led the USA on the glass with 11 rebounds each, while Canada and Fowles added six boards each.
The USA led 14-9 in a low scoring first quarter, and Canada scored the first seven points of the second quarter to pull ahead 16-14. A 3 from Canada’s Miranda Ayim pushed Canada in front 19-18 and with 3:21 remaining before intermission and following a 3 from Canada’s Aaliyah Edwards, the USA led by a point, 25-24.
Getting four points from Canada, three points from DeShields and two points from Charles, the Americans closed out the first half with 9-0 run to create some breathing space and take a 34-24 lead to the locker room at halftime.
Fowles and Charles open the third quarter with baskets as the USA lead ballooned to 38-24. Canada continued to struggle to put points in the scorebook and the USA led 57-38 heading into the final quarter and went on to post the 67-46 win.
“It felt great to be amongst those other four,” said Canada. “To be with Diamond and Sylvia up there, it’s a great feeling.”
“It’s always an honor to be recognized as one of the top players in a tournament like this,” added DeShields. “There are so many great players, talented players, and I’m just honored.”
Brazil (4-2) claimed the bronze medal after downing host Puerto Rico (3-3) 95-66 earlier in the evening.
The USA has played in four previous FIBA Americas Championships, historically used as a qualifier for an Olympics or FIBA World Cup, in 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2007.
The top eight nations at the 2019 FIBA AmeriCup, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and the USA, qualified to compete in one of two 2019 FIBA Americas Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, Nov. 10-18.
Prior to the gold medal game, the eight qualified teams were drawn into two groups of four, and Canada will host in Edmonton Group A, which also includes Cuba, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Group B, which features Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and the USA, will compete in Bahia Blanca, Argentina. The top two teams from each of those groups will earn the right to play in one of the 2020 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (sites TBD), Feb. 2-10.
Dan Hughes (Seattle Storm), Cheryl Reeve (Minnesota Lynx) and Jennifer Rizzotti (George Washington), who assisted the USA to a gold medal at the 2018 FIBA World Cup, are serving as assistant coaches.
As was the case over the past three quadrenniums, the 2019-20 USA National Team roster, which currently lists 34 athletes, will be fluid. It is expected that the official, 12-member 2020 U.S. Olympic Team will be comprised of players from the 2019-20 USA National Team.
Chaired by USA Women’s National Team director Carol Callan, USA AmeriCup Team athletes were selected by the USA Basketball Women’s National Team Player Selection Committee, which currently includes three-time Olympic and two-time World Cup gold medalist Katie Smith as the athlete representative; representing the WNBA is Connecticut Sun head coach Curt Miller and Los Angeles Sparks general manager Penny Toler; and University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma, who coached USA teams to gold medals at the past two Olympics and FIBA World Cups, serves as a special advisor.