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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

UConn products lead U.S. to exhibition game victory

Former UConn star Tina Charles shoots over former Connecticut Sun forward Elizabeth
Williams in Monday night's exhibition game in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of USA Basketball)
The U.S. women's Olympic team was in danger of dropping its first game when a trio of former UConn stars took control.

The U.S. Select team, a group of young WNBA players, held a two-point lead with a minute to go. Breanna Stewart hit a layup off an assist from Tina Charles to tie the game. Charles also had a pair of key rebounds while Maya Moore was 4 for 4 from a foul line in the final 39.3 seconds to lead the U.S. to an 88-84 victory.

"We were trying to accomplish a lot," said Moore, who tied for the team lead with 11 points. We were putting different lineups out there on the court, trying different schemes, trying to see what we could do…and the Select Team was very aggressive in terms of those moments when we weren’t completely on the same page. But we were able to respond and finish the game the right way. Hey, we could have easily lost this game. So I’m glad we were able to come through and build some momentum for the next game."

Moore also had three rebounds and three assists while Elena Delle Donne also had 11 points. Lindsay Whalen and Angel McCoughtry had nine points each, Stewart had six of her eight points in the fourth quarter, Charles had eight points and four rebounds. Diana Taurasi had seven points and a team-high five assists while Sue Bird finished with six points.

Natasha Howard had 18 of her game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter, Jewell Loyd had 20 points and Odyssey Sims added 17 to lead the Select team.

"I thought the way the Select Team played was really cool," UConn and U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said. "They played as if they play against these guys all the time, which they do. There wasn’t going to be any sense of intimidation of who they are, which is why we play these games. We need the challenges. We need to look at different combinations and figure out what works for us and what doesn’t. For us, in the two days we’ve been together, we did a lot of really good things and we’re going to get better and better every day. And for the future of USA Basketball, there were some unbelievably positive signs out there of what the next group could potentially look like. It was a good day, I think, all the way around."

The U.S. will now play three international friendlies in three different states beginning tomorrow when the U.S. faces France at 7:30 p.m. at the Bob Carpenter Center on the campus of the University of Delaware. That will be preceded by a 5 p.m. game between Canada (featuring UConn's Kia Nurse) and Australia at 5 p.m. On Friday at Webster Bank Arena, Australia and France will play at 4:30 p.m. followed by the Canada/U.S. game at 7. Canada and France will meet at 1:30 p.m. on July 31 followed by the U.S./Australia game at Madison Square Garden. The team will wrap up the state-side preparations with a practice in Houston on Aug. 2 before leaving for Rio.

"They’re three really big games for us against three teams that are going to be at the Olympics that we’ve played before," Taurasi said. "We know what kind of team they are, what kind of quality they have. It’s going to challenge us to go out there and play hard and play really well to win. When you put this jersey on, as coach said, there are no moral victories. At the same time, these games are there to prepare you, to get you in a position where when we get to Rio, we know what we’re going with and the things that we’re really good at. It’ll be a tough and competitive three games."

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