By Jason Klaiber
The national basketball teams for both men and women can relate by way of the competitive fires in each of their players’ bellies. This need to be the best is definitive of “the American way,” so it serves as no surprise that these two teams, both representing the USA, came out on top in their respective FIBA World tournaments.
Last Sunday, with Geno Auriemma at the coaching helm, the women’s team defeated Spain 77-64 to lift the gold trophy in Istanbul’s Fenerbahce Arena and conclude the tournament. After beating France in the quarterfinals and then Australia in the semifinals, this was the USA women’s tenth appearance in the championship game and, upon their triumph over Spain, their ninth time winning it all.
The team handled a comfortable lead over first-time finalists Spain throughout the course of the game. USA led by 11 points going into the second quarter and towered over Spain 48-29 entering halftime, owing much to Maya Moore’s contribution of 16 points in the first half.
USA maintained their display of terrific defense and scoring in the second half, constructing a 67-48 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Spain still had some life in them, though, as proven by their late rally in the final 10 minutes of play. Spain went on to execute a 16-10 run, but to no avail. USA still managed to win in convincing fashion.
Having collected 18 points in her effort, Moore was named Most Valuable Player. Along with teammate Brittney Griner, Spain’s duo of Alba Torrens and Sancho Lyttle, and Australia’s Penny Taylor were named to the All-Tournament Team.
This victory also made point guard Sue Bird, who now possesses three gold medals and one bronze, the most decorated player in the history of the tournament.
The women’s tournament success compliments that of the men, who earned their gold trophy on Sept. 14 after cruising past Serbia 129-92 in the championship game. The USA men, led in great part by point guard and tournament MVP Kyrie Irving, also knocked off Turkey, Finland, New Zealand, the Dominican Republic, Ukraine, Mexico, Slovenia and Lithuania.
This was the third year ever, after 1986 and 2010, in which both the men and women’s teams claimed the gold in their respective tournament runs.