By Daniel Wallace
Baylor junior Brittney Griner led all scorers in her first international game as the USA Women’s Basketball team surged past its Italian opponent. Griner had 15 points Friday in the 77-48 victory over 2010 Italian league champion Famila Schio in Monte di Procida, Italy. Baylor alumna Sophia Young added eight points to help guide the team to a win in the tournaments’ opening game.
“I think that Brittney and Sophia Young, as their first time playing USA Basketball, were a little bit nervous going in, didn’t know what to expect,” head coach Geno Auriemma said in a press release. “But once you start playing, basketball is basketball and I think their instincts took over. Even when Brittney doesn’t know what she’s doing out there, she impacts the game because everyone’s looking to see where she is.”
Auriemma also said the game changed on both ends of the floor when Griner entered the game, and he mentioned the potential she has to dominate women’s basketball for the next 10 years. Griner went 6-for-13 from the floor and 3-for-3 from the free-throw line, playing 26 minutes. She also registered seven rebounds and was responsible for the team’s only two blocks.
Swin Cash, Tina Charles and Renee Montgomery also scored in double figures for team USA, all netting 12 points apiece. Auriemma was satisfied with the total effort of the team and said he was pleasantly surprised.
“All in all, I didn’t know what to expect in this game after just being with these guys for two days, but I’m really thrilled with the way we played,” Auriemma said. “We just beat a really, really, really good team. Probably the best team here in Italy. I’m really pleased. I really am.”
On Saturday, the team improved to 2-0 with a 78-68 victory over Ros Casares Valencia. Cash scored a team-high 17 points and was named MVP for the two-night, four-team tournament. Cash averaged 14.5 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game.
“Swin throughout these past two games has been exactly what Swin’s always been,” Auriemma said. “She’s a high-energy player who’s around the ball all the time and makes big plays. She had a couple offensive rebounds and put-backs that I thought were exactly what we needed when we needed them. She is a leader out there for them.”
Griner was named the tournament’s best post player after averaging 12.5 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game, coming off the bench.
In Saturday’s game, Griner hit a turn-around jumper at the top of the key with 4:05 remaining in the third quarter that sparked a 10-4 USA run. At the end of the third quarter, the score was 66-59 in favor of the Americans, who never looked back.
MVP Cash said she was pleased with the team’s performance against a tough opponent in a hard- fought game.
“Ros Casares is a very physical team,” said Cash. “They have very good players. We knew, with them having Ann Wauters, that she was going to be a physical presence on the block. I was really just happy with our post players, with Tina, with Brittney, just holding their ground down low, playing solid defense and rebounding the basketball.”
Griner and the rest of the USA Women’s team will take the court again at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, in Valencia, Spain, to take on Ros Casares Valencia once again.