Shakira Austin scored 19 points, Kahleh Cooper added 16, and the United States played a stifling defense to beat Puerto Rico 106-42 on Friday in the World Cup.
“Every day we talk about the difficulty of playing ahead of us, the distractions, and the team has really agreed to that,” said US coach Sheryl Reeve.
The Americans (2-0) forced Puerto Rico into 21 turns and fought nearly every shot, making every point difficult to get.
“It’s fun to play on a team that loves to play defense; it really fuels our attack,” said Alyssa Thomas, who has been stealing six out of Americans’ 13 thefts.
The US jumped to a 27-11 lead after one quarter as Thomas had 10 points and five steals in the first 10 minutes. The Americans forced nine transformations in this period. The United States continued to press in the second, holding Puerto Rico without a point for nearly the first five minutes of this period.
Mia Hollingshead finally finished off the drought, making a feuding triple pointer making it 40-17. The Americans led 54-21 in half. There was a bit of drama in the second half as the US continued to expand its lead.
The Americans contained goalkeeper Ariella Gerantes, who scored 26 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in Puerto Rico’s first win over Bosnia and Herzegovina. She was held by seven points in a 2-of-12 shooting. The US threw four or five different guns at her, starting with Cooper.
“We like to be aggressive on both sides,” said Brenna Stewart. “We can and will guard multiple positions and make it difficult for the other team. Our activity and our awareness of each other on the defensive side will go a long way in the tournament.”
The United States has now won 24 consecutive World Cup matches since losing the 2006 semi-final against Russia. The Americans had two wins less than equal to their record of 26 games from 1998 to 2006.
Puerto Rico (1-1) was coming off its first World Cup win. Hollingshead, who played in college in Colorado, finished with 10 points.
“The United States is the most important team in the tournament, but for us we’re just trying to win another game,” Puerto Rico captain Pamela Rosado said.
Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Bloom land in Sydney after celebrating their first WNBA Championship at the Las Vegas Aces with a parade on Tuesday. They sat on the American bench and cheered for their teammates. Aja Wilson, the third player on the Championship team, is expected to arrive in Sydney later on Friday.
“We’ll have some morning time with them before we play against a really good Chinese team tomorrow,” Reeve said. Depth will be useful.
Led by Austin, the US Reserves outperformed Puerto Rico 47-21. Breonna Jones added 15 points and nine boards.
Despite the quality of the American defense, it was not the lowest total ever scored by an American opponent. Argentina had 22 points in 1953. … The Americans also missed the winning margin record set by the 2014 team that beat Angola 119-44. … Thomas failed to set the American record for thefts in a match set by Sheryl Miller in 1986. Tamika Catchings had six goals against Russia in 2002. Cuban Olga Gomez held the World Cup record of 10 against France in 1994.
Puerto Rico: vs Belgium on Saturday.
US: China plays on Saturday.