Team USA grind out win on emotional night
The 2020 Winter Tour for the USA women's national team continued on Monday night in Hartford, Connecticut against coach Geno Auriemma and the University of Connecticut Huskies. Team USA is preparing for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. First stop is the qualifiers happening next month in Serbia.
For the past few days we have been witnessing various tributes for Kobe Bryant at NBA games with twenty-four shot clock and eight second violations commemorating his jersey numbers, players writing messages on their sneakers and more. The Huskies paid tribute to Gianna Bryant, Kobe’s daughter, uniquely by sitting the number two jersey on the Huskies bench throughout the game. The 13-year-old Huskies fan died in the tragic helicopter accident on Sunday morning in Calabasas California alongside her legendary father Kobe and seven others. UCONN was the very team Gigi wanted to play for in the future and she hoped that coach Geno would stay on the coaching staff until her college eligibility. I got emotional all over again while watching the tribute. The heartache is hard for all hoopers and the world but especially for the Bryant family.
The Huskies dynasty is quite lengthy and can come as a shock to most when you realize the number of WNBA and USA team players that have come from their women's basketball program over the past two decades. On Monday night’s matchup five of the women on the national team were suited up against their alma mater: Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Breanna Stewart, Tina Charles and Katie Lou Samuelson. Samuelson graduated is well acquainted with the women currently on the Huskies team. “I know these girls there,” said Samuelson, who graduated last year. “Those are my sisters on that team.”
It was nice to see former MVP Breanna Stewart of the Seattle Storm back on the floor after suffering a torn Achilles during a EuroLeague Final Four Championship Game nine months ago, as well as Nigerian-American Nneka Ogwumike of the Los Angeles Sparks who is hoping to make her first appearance at the Olympics for team USA.
After having just one practice before the game, Team USA got off to a good start leading the Huskies by 14 points to begin the game, but the number 3 ranked Huskies retaliated well in the second quarter outscoring the national team 20 to 10 ending the first half tied at 31 points. It did not take the pros long to find their momentum and take back the lead as they ended the game with a 79-64 victory.
There was no expectation on my end for the game to end differently to how it did, the students played well against their idols and it is very exciting to see the future of the US Women’s national team.
By Nthabiseng Mushi