Team USA routs outmatched Senegal
Americans improve to 2-0; France up next (9:15 a.m. ET Saturday, NBA TV)
These games aren't necessarily "entertaining" for fans to watch in terms of their competitiveness. Since that is not a factor. The Americans, as powerful a hoops force as they are, will always run into mismatches, and certainly Team USA vs. Senegal was that.
It was a 108-52 USA victory Friday at the FIBA World Championship for Women in the Czech Republic. When the teams met in an exhibition in Spain on Sept. 18, the Americans prevailed 93-51. Were they to play 50 more times, the gap might fluctuate, but the end result wouldn't change.
So since the outcome is really never in doubt, observers should watch these games specifically to observe how the Americans try to perfect what they do well, individually and collectively.
That said, the Americans are not without some knowledge about the uphill battle their opponents face. The U.S. team isn't made up of mindless basketball machines. To the contrary, it's an intelligent and empathetic group capable of recognizing they've all had advantages a good many of their global opponents haven't.
Senegal, a country of 13.7 million, is regarded as one of the more stable post-colonial republics in Africa. Still, overall life expectancy is 59 years, and it's listed as a "high-risk" nation for infectious disease. And literacy -- defined as citizens aged 15 and older who can read and write -- is estimated at about 39 percent for everyone and only about 29 percent for women.
All things considered, you could assume that those on the national basketball team are among their country's more successful young women, and worthy of respect. Which the U.S. team showed.
Coach Geno Auriemma spread out playing time among all 12 Americans. There was no running up the score, as 108 points isn't some surprisingly high figure with a group of players this talented. At the same time, the U.S. team gave a focused and purposeful effort, in no way treating it like some condescending romp. (The six UConn players on the roster, in particular, have had quite a bit of practice playing well in mismatches, of course.)
"I think their coach is right, we just have more good players than they do," Auriemma said. "When we sub our second team, it just puts a lot of pressure on the other team, and that's what we wanted to do tonight."
As was the case in their opener against Greece, the Americans were a dozen strong against Senegal. Everyone scored, with Maya Moore's 15 points leading six players in double figures. And everyone got at least one rebound as Team USA again dominated the boards, 44-25. Tamika Catchings, Swin Cash and Candice Dupree each had five rebounds.
The United States shot 61.1 percent from the floor, despite a 2-of-10 performance from behind the arc. Lindsay Whalen was 5-of-5 from the field, as she and starting point guard Sue Bird each played 20 minutes.
Sylvia Fowles, in her second game back after knee surgery, started and scored 10 points in 13 minutes. She played seven minutes off the bench in the Americans' first game.
"I came out a little antsy tonight because I knew I was going to get more than five minutes, and the first half I was too hurried," Fowles said. "We got into the locker room, talking to my teammates, and it was like, 'Just calm down, play your game, slow down and take a second,' and that's exactly what I did in the second half. And it worked out for me. It felt great.
"It was a lot of fun, knowing that we haven't been together that long as a team, and to just go out there and be able to pull together and get better game-by-game. I'm excited to see where we are going to be at tomorrow, and in the next 10 days."
Mechelle Voepel, a regular contributor to ESPN.com, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at voepel.wordpress.com.
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