Tournament MVP A’ja Wilson poured in 19 points as the all-conquering United States crushed China 83-61 to win their fourth straight women’s basketball World Cup and 11th overall in Sydney on Saturday.
Kelsey Plum added 17 points and Jewell Loyd 11 as the Chinese were overpowered by a formidable team that stretched their unbeaten streak in the competition to 30 games.
The US went to half-time with a 43-33 lead and there was no stopping them in front of 15,895 fans at Sydney SuperDome - the biggest-ever crowd for a women’s basketball match in Australia. The 22-point differential was the highest in World Cup final history, reinforcing their dominance.
“Some great players, five-time Olympians, were not part of this team and there was probably some around the world thinking, ‘now’s the time to get the USA’,” said US coach Cheryl Reeve, after the retirements of Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi.
“I think we showed the depth of talent we have, and it was on display. I thought we just had a really good tournament, particularly defensively,” she added. “They’re hard to play against and we had some really great moments.”
In front of the watching Chinese basketball legend Yao Ming, the odds were heavily stacked against China, who were led by Li Yueru with 19 points and took home their first medal since 1994. On top of being 10-time champions, the USA were coming off a record-breaking 83-43 semi-final victory against Canada, the biggest win ever in a World Cup last four, and they had beaten China 77-66 in the group phase. The Chinese had also lost all seven previous World Cup clashes with the American juggernaut, and by an average 22 points. “We came on a mission and we played pretty good,” said Wilson, who won the Most Valuable Player award to go with the WNBA title she won last month with the Las Vegas Aces. “This is what you live for, this is my job and I love my job and what I do.”
China were again without star player and leading points scorer Li Meng, who has a fever, but Li Yueru and Wang Siyu both scored early buckets as they started strongly.
But the USA soon found their stride to close out the first quarter with an 18-13 advantage, although it was scrappy with the Americans only shooting at 44 percent. They began finding the hoop as they lifted the tempo and pulled out to a 13-point lead, before Jin Weina netted outside the arc on the siren to pull it back to 43-33 at the break.
Refreshed, the relentless USA shifted up a gear in the third frame with aggressive defence and built it into a 68-47 lead heading into the home stretch, where a ragged China had nothing left in the tank. Despite the defeat, China coach Zheng Wei said their performance boded well for the Paris Olympics in 2024. “For us it was a really good result (making the final) and we will keep moving forward and improving and we are looking forward to Paris,” she said.
“We have learned a lot, but there is still a gap between us and our opponent. But we have gained a lot of experience and improved a lot mentally.”
Earlier, Lauren Jackson produced a vintage performance to end her international career on a high, 25 years after making her debut, as Australia swept past Canada 95-65 to win bronze.
Jackson, 41, turned back the clock with a huge all-round effort, ending with a game-high 30 points, seven rebounds and one assist. The seven-time WNBA all-star ended her fifth World Cup - and first in 12 years - tied as the all-time leader in games played, on 43 with
Brazil’s Janeth Arcain.
Team USA celebrate with the trophy after winning the 2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup at the Superdome in Sydney, yesterday. (AFP)