For the second time in as many games, Team USA controlled the paint en route to a 118-50 win over El Salvador in Group A action of the FIBA Americas Championship at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. South Carolina freshman A’ja Wilson was aggressive early for coach Dawn Staley, scoring eight of her 16 points in the first quarter to help stake the Americans to a 33-11 lead after the first 10 minutes.
Team USA scored first, but El Salvador netted the game’s next five points. Off a U.S. miss, Wilson pulled down the offensive rebound and was fouled on her putback attempt. Her free throws narrowed the game to 5-4, and Ariel Atkins put the Americans back on top, 6-5, with an inside basket. The combination was just the beginning of a 20-0 run that included six points from Wilson, who was also active on the glass. After Staley had challenged her team in the previous game to improve defensively, the Americans forced four turnovers during the four-minute run that broke the game open.
The first quarter ended with the U.S. leading 33-11, and the Americans doubled that advantage by halftime, outscoring El Salvador 34-11 in the second quarter to take a 67-22 lead into the locker room at the midway point of the game.
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As it did against Mexico, Team USA surged again in the third quarter with the defense allowing just seven points while the offense poured in 38 in the 10-minute period. El Salvador hit just 3-of-16 from the field and lost the rebound battle throughout the game. Trailing 105-29, El Salvador won the fourth quarter 21-13, but it was too late to overtake the Americans.
The U.S. scored 78 of its 118 points in the paint and turned 18 El Salvador turnovers into 35 points, including 34 fast-break points. Destinee Walker led the Americans with 18 points, while Jessica Shepard added 17 and Wilson came in third with 16. Napheesa Collier’s 12 rebounds were a game-high with Wilson close behind with eight to go with a steal and a blocked shot.
Team USA will close out group play at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Canada. Both teams are 2-0 so far and are guaranteed a spot in Saturday’s semifinals. The winner of Friday’s game will win the group and play in the first semifinal at 5:30 p.m. against the second-place finisher in Group B, which has all four teams tied at 1-1 going into Friday’s action.
Martin, Thornwell, Johnson headed back home
Team USA East Coast lost an exhibition game 90-72 to Helsinki on Thursday to finish its European trip. The team finished second in the Four Nations Cup.
Marc Weiszer of The Athens Banner-Herald obtained Georgia's men's basketball schedule through an open-records request. The Bulldogs will play at USC on Jan. 31, and host the Gamecocks on Feb. 18.
The rest of the SEC schedule should be released within two weeks.
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