USA to face Canada in Fiba Women’s World Cup semis, China through
Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas nailed 13 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists as an all-conquering United States close in on an 11th title after setting up a women’s basketball World Cup semi-final against Canada Thursday.
Guard Kelsey Plum added a game-high 17 points in a 88-55 pummeling of Serbia, with the three-time defending champions strong on both offence and defence.
They will meet Canada in Sydney on Friday after the world number four swept past Puerto Rico 79-60 in their bid for a first medal since capturing bronze in 1986.
An impressive China battled past Olympic bronze medallists France 85-71 to make their first semi-final in 28 years and will face either hosts Australia — the beaten 2018 finalists — or Belgium in the other semi-final.
The US victory made it a 10th consecutive World Cup that the Americans have gone undefeated before the last four, with coach Cheryl Reeve content despite a slow start, when they trailed for the first time all tournament.
“I thought Serbia executed their game plan and took us out of one of our largest identities in pool play, and that was scoring in the paint,” she said.
“But overall, I thought our response was really good. Once we got out of the first quarter, we adjusted a little bit and we found success … I thought our defence was really hard to play against.”
Little separated the two sides in the first frame, with the US taking a narrow 25-23 lead, shooting 57 percent to Serbia’s 48 percent.
The US has been brutal in punishing errors, and they stepped up a gear to dominate around the board, building a 50-33 half-time lead on the back of a 12-0 run.
Serbia, ranked 10, was shooting just 30 percent from the field and were held to only seven points in the third quarter, going more than eight minutes without scoring, before the Americans put another 22 points past them in the fourth to romp home.
“Serbia really tested us, they played super physical, more physical than we have seen all tournament,” said Plum. “I felt early on their pressure bothered us, but we were able to get it under control.”
It was never going to be easy for the Serbs, with the US on a 28-game unbeaten streak, their longest since winning 26 from 1994-2006.
They will next meet a young Canadian team rejuvenated under coach Victor Lapena, coming through the group phase with just one narrow defeat, against Australia.
They were too strong for Puerto Rico, racing to a 21-11 first-quarter lead then putting on another 18 points by half-time, successfully blunting the threat posed by dangerwoman Arella Guirantes.
The Puerto Ricans improved their defense and shooting percentage to come out on top of the third quarter as Guirantes got into her stride, ending with a game-high 19 points. But it proved too little too late.
“This is a great accomplishment for Canadian basketball,” said Kia Nurse, who downed 17 points. “It’s been a really long time coming.”
A superb China finished 4-1 in the group phase after only losing to the USA, but came into their clash with France having lost their previous three World Cup quarter-finals.
They made no mistakes this time to make their first semi since 1994 with the twin towers of Han Xu and Li Yueru at the forefront and shooting guard Li Meng pouring in 23 points.
Nothing separated them in the 25-25 first quarter, but China assumed control in the second to move 50-39 in front. They took an eight-point lead into the final leg and held their nerve.
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