FIBA World Cup Semifinals
SYDNEY (AP) — A muscular Serbia squad put Alyssa Thomas and her US teammates to the test for the first time in the FIBA World Cup Semifinals. After a poor start, the Americans produced a powerful half-time surge to seize control of the game and go to the semifinals for the second time. On Thursday, Thomas scored 13 points, 14 rebounds, and seven assists to help the United States defeat Serbia 88-55 in the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup.
“I believe every team expects their best punch in the first quarter at the FIBA World Cup Semifinals,” Thomas remarked. “We simply had to relax into the game, and once we did, we were able to really pull away.” The Americans (6-0) advanced to the semifinals thanks to 17 points from Kelsey Plum and 15 from A’ja Wilson. “They were incredibly rough, more physical than we’d seen all tournament,” Plum added. “They deserve it. I felt that their pressure worried us at first, but we were able to get it under control.”
The Americans had cruised through pool play, winning by 46.2 points per game and facing no opposition. Serbia (3-2) appeared unfazed, charging straight at the Americans at the FIBA World Cup Semifinals. The Serbians scored the game’s opening basket, and the Americans trailed for the first time in the tournament.
The opening 17 minutes were back-and-forth, with neither team making a significant run. Then, with 2:59 remaining in the half and the United States leading by five, Kahleah Copper drove to the hoop and was fouled. She fell awkwardly on her hip and had to be assisted off the court by US training personnel. Copper, who was a sparkplug for the United States in her debut competition, did not return.
“It’s too early to tell,” Reeve said of Copper’s injuries. “We’re obtaining some imaging for her, and we’ll have more information later at the FIBA World Cup Semifinals.” Plum came in for Cooper and sank two free throws to spark a 12-0 run to end the half, giving the Americans a 50-33 lead at the intermission. In the first 20 minutes, Thomas had 13 points, six rebounds, four assists, and two steals.
The US extended their run to 20 points in the third quarter until Serbia eventually broke the drought with a 3-pointer by Yvonne Anderson. This reduced the gap to 22 points. After then, Serbia didn’t move any closer.
Anderson had 14 points to lead Serbia.
Betnijah Laney was knocked down hard on a put-back early in the fourth quarter. She quit the game and remained on the bench for the remainder of it. “She had a terrible fall,” Reeve said. “She was in the locker room later, and I guess a bit more of it knocked the wind out of her.” The win was the Americans’ 28th in a row in FIBA World Cup Semifinals play, and they haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals against Russia. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 consecutive victories from 1959 to 1986.
After going undefeated in pool play once again, the United States advanced to the semifinals for the 12th time in a row, dating back to 1975. That year marked the end of a cycle in which the Americans had lost 14 games in four tournaments. Since then, they’ve only lost five games.
IT WAS NOT PICASSO
Even without Brittney Griner, the United States controlled the paint, outscoring its opponents by an average of 60.8-24.4 in pool play. Serbia led the Americans 20-16 at halftime and outscored them 28-26 in the game by continuously having two or three players inside to jam up the center.
“It’s just one of those things you have to live with,” Wilson said. “Hopefully, we can go back to controlling the paint in the next couple of games.” Serbia did an excellent job of securing it.
WATCH TRIPLE TIMES
Thomas, who recorded a triple-double in each of the past two WNBA Finals games, came up just short of being the first person to do it at the FIBA World Cup Semifinals since Erika Dobrovicova in 1994 for the Slovak Republic against Spain. Before 1994, assists and rebounds were not recorded. In the opener against Belgium, Thomas recorded 14 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds.
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