Team USA puts on a show
UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Some postgame thoughts from USA Basketball's 99-72 victory Saturday over the WNBA All-Stars at Mohegan Sun.
Rebecca Lobo's analysis
Team UConn: At the end of the third quarter, I asked coach Geno Auriemma how it helped to have six former UConn players on Team USA. He said it helps in implementing the system. For instance, instead of having to walk through it when he's trying to show offenses or defenses, he can put his former and current players out there and they can demonstrate.
You can definitely tell a difference when Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi are on the court because they have so much experience playing together. Whether it was playing alongside each other at UConn, or internationally with the Olympic team, or in the offseason in Russia, they share a special chemistry. There was a significant difference when Auriemma put his veterans in and when he had a lineup of some of the younger players. The most noticeable difference was the comfort level of the younger players, but overall they should feel good about their performance.
Maya Moore: UConn's senior, the only college player in the game, looked terrific. She was the last player to check in for the team and Auriemma played her with different groups. Having Moore start the second half was really helpful for her because she looked like a WNBA All-Star and played like one. There wasn't one point where she stuck out as a collegiate player. I expected her to get a good ovation like the rest of the UConn players, but she was by far the fan favorite. Anywhere you go in Connecticut there's a strong UConn contingent -- so there's no surprise there.
Penny made a difference: Phoenix coach Corey Gaines spoke to Storm counterpart Brian Agler, the WNBA All-Stars' coach Saturday, prior to the game and asked him to give Penny Taylor a little bit of rest. So instead of just playing her a couple minutes in the first half and a couple in the second, Agler gave her a chunk of playing time in the second half. In just 14 minutes, Taylor netted 12 points, one assist and three steals. Wow! You have to give Coach Agler credit for that. Taylor is a player who's going to log a lot of minutes throughout the season and he wanted to give her some rest.
Super sub-ins: Former Duke standouts Monique Currie and Lindsey Harding were named as replacement players Wednesday. Both women played exceptionally well and showed that the players who filled in deserved to play in this game. They've had great individual seasons. It would have been nice for the fans to see Becky Hammon, Lauren Jackson and Sancho Lyttle, but overall the fans got what they were looking for: a competitive and fun game to watch.
Carolyn Peck's analysis
Advantage, Team USA: When Auriemma makes a substitution, he has the advantage of choosing from six UConn players: Bird, Taurasi, Tina Charles, Swin Cash, Renee Montgomery and Moore. With those six on the practice floor, they can demonstrate an offense and everyone else can visualize it, which makes the transition that much quicker.
Diana Taurasi, the leader: Taurasi is obviously a great player, but when she puts on a jersey with these three letters, her game goes to another level. Taurasi's intensity and her focus are unmatched. Saturday's game was all about business; she didn't seem to ease up her focus until about the last seven seconds of the game. She takes representing the United States very seriously.
The replacements: Harding, a fifth-year guard, came in to replace injured Atlanta Dream standout Lyttle and played phenomenally. In 14 minutes, Currie added five points and was a welcomed addition to fill Jackson's spot. Overall, each one of these WNBA players demonstrated that the WNBA displays some of the best talent in the world. Even with key players absent, the replacements were still just as entertaining to watch and an impressive showcase of talent.
Maya Moore, the crowd favorite: Whichever WNBA team gets the UConn senior next summer is one lucky franchise. I asked Moore what it was like to be out here with all these professional players and she said, "When you have 'Team USA' across your chest, everyone is the same." I like her focus and approach to things. Her decision-making has improved and she's a lot more comfortable on the floor -- even as she walked out on the court with poise as a starter for Team USA in the second half.
Sylvia Fowles steps up: MVP Sylvia Fowles racked up 23 points and eight boards to lead Team USA to a complete shutdown of the WNBA All-Stars. With no Lisa Leslie or Tina Thompson in the frontcourt, and with Candace Parker's availability in question as she recovers from shoulder surgery, it was important to see USA Basketball solid inside. To compete in the World Championship, you need a dominant center -- and that's exactly what Fowles can provide. Auriemma has challenged Fowles and Angel McCoughtry by telling them to take it to the next level. It looks like the pair are already moving in that direction.
Final thoughts: Team USA shared the ball well on offense and demonstrated a lot of unselfish play. There was a high level of focus and concentration during Saturday's game, and there's already a lot of fluidity within the U.S. women's offense. Going forward, Auriemma needs to try to mix in different combinations and get his team to focus on rebounding. Both factors will be important if the U.S. national team wants to compete against international teams.
Rebecca Lobo won the 1995 Naismith National Player of the Year Award after leading the University of Connecticut women's basketball team to its first national championship. She was the youngest member of the 1996 gold-medal-winning Olympic team, and now, after seven seasons in the WNBA, she covers basketball for ESPN. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, Steve Rushin, and their three children.
Carolyn Peck led Purdue to the 1999 NCAA championship and also previously coached at the University of Florida and was coach and general manager of the WNBA's Orlando Miracle. Peck, who played at Vanderbilt, covers basketball for ESPN.
Rebecca LoboWomen's Basketball
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