Story By: Erin Zollars
Photos By: Sol Tucker
If there was one USA Women’s Basketball exhibition game that has a special meaning for one person, it was tonight’s game against France at the BOB on the campus of the University of Delaware where one of the biggest names in the WNBA Elena Delle Donne put this place on the map. The sellout crowd of 4,711 fans gave her another loud welcome as the team prepared in the second to final game before heading to Rio.
“It was by far the most emotional game I played at [Delaware],” said Delle Donne, who helped Delaware reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament her senior year. “Seeing faces that had watched me here since eighth grade and have been on the entire journey with me and now see me in a USA jersey. It’s been my dream my entire life. It’s so special to come out and share it with them. This is a really special night. There have been a lot of special nights on this court. This is the biggest night. It’s a dream come true for me and the fans as well.”
For the United States the French team which is no stranger to keeping teams on the ropes did that for the entire first half of the game and running the court and sometimes confusing the stars of the USA squad, which is penciled in to win the gold this year in Rio. The Americans have had little training since getting together for the first time as a full team Saturday in Los Angeles. Most of these players were on a WNBA court just a little over a week ago with their respective teams and getting a flow, well its going to take another week or so.
The game was a rematch of the 2012 London Olympics gold-medal game, which the Americans won 86-50.
The Americans extended the lead to 63-46 after three quarters. France couldn’t get within 15 the rest of the way. Marine Johannes scored 13 points to lead France.
Tina Charles scored 17 points and Maya Moore added 13 to lead the Americans.
The next stop after two days of practice for the USA team will be a match-up against Australia on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. Canada took Australia down to the wire in the first game of the day on the campus of the University of Delaware.
“We have so many good players that it takes little bit of time for us to get our bearings,” USA head coach Geno Auriemma said. “But we came out in the second half, and I think Dee was lot more aggressive. Sylvia just was incredible. And the same with Stewie. We got lot of great energy and great stuff from the bench in the second half that we really didn’t get in the first half. So, that was probably the biggest thing.”