It has been a whirlwind week for Alyssa Thomas, who went from losing in the WNBA Finals on Sunday to flying about 16,000km to Australia a day later to play for the US at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup, where yesterday she had 14 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in her debut as they beat Belgium 87-72 in the tournament opener.
After finding out she would be on the US roster, she never gave any thought to skipping the World Cup.
“Excited to be a part of this, been waiting a long time,” the 30-year-old Thomas said.
US coach Cheryl Reeve was impressed with what Thomas was able to do with the short turnaround time.
“It’s what I expected Alyssa to do, as it’s just what she does. She’s a competitor and knows how to” play, Reeve said. “WNBA players don’t get enough credit for how well that they transition from overseas play to WNBA play to national team play.”
Breanna Stewart scored 22 points and Jewell Loyd also scored 14 for the short-handed US team, who were still missing Las Vegas Aces players A’ja Wilson, Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum.
The trio were on their way to Australia after celebrating the franchise’s first WNBA championship with a parade on Tuesday.
Thomas and her Connecticut Sun teammate Brionna Jones, who also arrived on Wednesday, were two of six players on the roster who had not played for the US in either the World Cup or at the Olympics.
This team is very different from the one who won a third straight gold in Spain in 2018. Sue Bird is retired and Diana Taurasi is out as well. Brittney Griner, who would have been on this team, is in a Russian jail after being convicted of drug possession last month and sentenced to nine years in prison.
The US government is trying to secure her release.
The US jumped out to a quick 12-0 lead before Belgium settled down to get within one.
The US lengthened the lead again behind Stewart and Loyd, and were up 48-39 at halftime before going on a 12-4 run to start the third quarter.
The US did a stellar job defensively to nullify the threat posed by Belgium’s Emma Meesseman.
The Chicago Sky star led the Olympics in scoring last year, averaging 26.8 points. She had four against the US, who have now won 23 consecutive World Cup games since losing in the 2006 semi-finals to Russia.
Julie Vanloo scored 13 points to lead Belgium.
In other games, Puerto Rico beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 82-58 for their first-ever World Cup win; Canada topped Serbia 67-60 and Japan routed Mali 89-56.
In late games, China cracked a century in their 107-44 rout of South Korea, while hosts Australia failed to stay with France, losing 70-57.
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