In its fourth and final exhibition game of the USA Basketball Showcase presented by Verizon, the USA Basketball Women’s National Team defeated Australia 104-89 on Sunday at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings recorded six points and two rebounds. Former Fever player Erin Phillips had eight points and two assists for Australia.
Catchings, who will become a four-time Olympian when she steps on the floor in Rio, knows the role Head Coach Geno Auriemma wants her to fill on the 2016 National Team.
“My role on Team USA has always been to bring energy, the defense and do whatever I can,” Catchings said to USA Basketball after the game.
Catchings joins Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird as the veterans and captains of the squad, and there has already been plenty of mentoring from those three to some of the younger players.
“They’re always looking back when I’m on the bench saying, ‘Hey, did I do that right?’ and I really see how they’re willing to learn,” Catchings said. “It’s my job as a vet on this team to help the young players out.”
Associated Press Recap —
Diana Taurasi scored 15 of her 20 points during a five-minute span in the third quarter to help the U.S. women’s Olympic team beat Australia 104-89 on Sunday in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden.
Elena Delle Donne added 19 points for the Americans in the final tuneup for both teams before they head to Rio for the Olympics that begin next weekend.
The U.S. and Australia are the top two teams in the world and are expected to face off for the gold medal in Rio at the Olympics. The Americans have won the past five Olympic gold medals, while Australia has won the bronze or silver at every Olympic Games since 1996.
The Americans won every game on their exhibition tour, starting with a four-point victory over a U.S. select team. They also cruised to wins over Canada and France. The U.S. will make a brief stop in Houston to meet up with the men’s team before flying to Rio on Tuesday.
The Australians got off to a strong start, hitting six of their first 10 shots, including three 3-pointers to build a 17-11 advantage early on. But the depth on the U.S. team wore down the Opals.
Delle Donne rallied the Americans, scoring 11 points in the first quarter, hitting all four of her shots.
The U.S. scored the first 13 points of the second quarter, including eight by Angel McCoughtry, to build the advantage to 41-25 that capped off a 30-8 burst.
Australia wouldn’t go away, though. Penny Taylor, who told the AP over the weekend that she was retiring after the WNBA season ends, and Leilani Mitchell helped the Opals cut the deficit to 54-48 at the half.
Taurasi took over in the third quarter. She got hot from the outside, hitting three 3-pointers during that five-minute span to help the U.S. extend its lead to 77-58. The crowd of over 13,000 fans stood on their feet and began chanting “U-S-A.” Australia, which won its first two games in the exhibition tournament, could not recover.
Liz Cambage led Australia with 22 points despite being saddled by foul trouble. Mitchell finished with 18 points for Australia.
The U.S. honored former Olympians Teresa Edwards, Lisa Leslie, Dawn Staley, Gail Marquis and Juliene Simpson after the game. The national team stayed for the ceremony and cheered on the former greats. Marquis and Simpson were on the 1976 team. Edwards, Leslie and Staley helped start this run of five straight gold medals. After the former greats were introduced to the crowd, the current team ran over and hugged and high-fived them.
The Americans have won 41 consecutive Olympic contests with the last loss coming in the 1992 bronze medal game. They also have never lost to Australia, going 19-0 in exhibition games, world championship contests and the Olympics.