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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

U.S. loses opener

The United States' bid for the FIBA Under-19 World Championship of Women title got off to a sluggish start as the U.S. lost to Spain 90-86 in the first round of pool play.

The U.S. rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit to take a two-point lead into the final quarter but couldn't hold off Spain as the United States saw its 18-game winning streak in the U-19 tournament end.

Leonor Rodriguez Manso led Spain with 23 points. Marta Tudanca Acedo and Marta Xargay Casademont added 21 and 19 points respectively as Spain moves to 1-0 in Group D.

Stanford rising sophomore Nneka Ogwumike led five U.S. players in double figures with 16 points to go with eight rebounds. Chay Shegog (North Carolina) and Notre Dame incoming freshman Skylar Diggins added 13 points each. Shenice Johnson (Miami) and Samantha Prahalis (Ohio State) had 10 points each. UConn incoming freshman Kelly Faris missed her only field-goal attempt and had one assist in two minutes. I just heard back from the always helpful Caroline Williams of USA Basketball who confirmed that Faris' playing time was not injury related. Considering that the U.S. was playing from behind for most of the game, U.S. coach Carol Owens opted to go with more offensive-minded players in an attemp to catch up.

The U.S., which will play China on Friday and will play Mali on Saturday, is still in contention for the championship. The U.S. only needs to finish in the top three in Group D to advance to the quarterfinals although the results from the preliminary round will carry over so the loss to Spain will stay on the U.S. resume for the next round. Assuming the U.S. finishes in the top three in Group D, it will be placed in Group F with the top three finishers in Group C and the other top two teams in Group D. The U.S. would have to finish in the top four in Group F to advance to the quarterfinal stage.

It is somewhat ironic that the last time the U.S. lost in this competition came in 2001 when UConn's Geno Auriemma was the head coach and the United States fell to host Czech Republic in the semifinals. It should be noted that five players who will be in Connecticut for Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game were members of the U.S. squad (Diana Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter, Alana Beard, Nicole Powell and Shameka Christon). The U.S. would beat Australia to win the bronze medal. Taurasi's former UConn teammates Jessica Moore and Ann Strother were also members of that squad.

Former UConn stars Sue Bird and Taurasi will join Christon, Katie Smith, Katie Douglas and Becky Hammon in the Three-Point Shootout while former UConn stars Asjha Jones, Charde Houston and Swin Cash will take part in the Skills Challenge before Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game.

In the shooting competition, players will have one minute to make as many 3-pointers as they can from five shooting stations behind the arc. Each spot consists of five basketballs - four WNBA balls worth one point apiece and one All-Star ball worth two points. The top three scorers will advance to compete in the final round.

The All-Star Skills Challenge will feature four teams comprised of three All-Stars. Two teams from the Eastern Conference and two teams from the Western Conference will compete to make a series of baskets while navigating an obstacle course.

Here are the teams:
Team 1 (East)

Jia Perkins Chicago Sky
Tamika Catchings Indiana Fever
Sancho Lyttle Atlanta Dream

Team 2 (East)

Alana Beard Washington Mystics
Asjha Jones Connecticut Sun
Sylvia Fowles Chicago Sky

Team 1 (West)

Cappie Pondexter Phoenix Mercury
Sophia Young San Antonio Silver Stars
Charde Houston Minnesota Lynx

Team 2 (West)
Swin Cash Seattle Storm
Nicole Powell Sacramento Monarchs
Nicky Anosike Minnesota Lynx

The only players not taking part in either competition are Tina Thompson of the Los Angeles Sparks, Chicago's Candice Dupree, Lauren Jackson of Phoenix and Erika de Souza of Atlanta.

Doors will open at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday with the shooting and skills competitions preceding the 3:30 p.m. WNBA All-Star Game.

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