Blowouts, upsets and a ticket to the Olympics; Team USA women's 3x3 is heading to Tokyo
With a ticket to represent the United States in the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, the stakes were high for the no. 8 ranked team.
Team USA is represented by four current WNBA players: Stefanie Dolson (Chicago Sky/Connecticut), Allisha Gray (Dallas Wings/South Carolina), Kelsey Plum (Las Vegas Aces/Washington) and Katie Lou Samuelson (Seattle Storm/Connecticut).
Team USA women's basketball is never one to face high adversity. But in this 3x3 tournament with a brand new team that hasn't competed in a major FIBA competition together. (Katie-Lou Samuelson competed in the 2014 U18 3x3 competition, earning gold.)
But never-the-less, this team proved their ability to develop chemistry and prevailed over some challenging competition.
Photo courtesy of USA 3x3 basketball twitter.
Takeaways from the Olympic qualifying tournament:
Team USA battled through some tough competition and breezed through others.
In game 1 against Indonesia, USA came out the gate running. They had seven early points until Indonesia started to heat up.
Never-the-less, Team USA cruised through a victory due to great shooting overall, taking advantage of Stef Dolson's height advantage on the pick-and-rolls, great playmaking and ball handling by Kelsey Plum, steady defense by Katie-Lou Samuelson and an overall complete stat sheet game by Allisha Gray.
This game was the second fasted 3x3 game, lasting 5:57 of play.
USA defeated Indonesia 21-7.
Next up was USA's toughest competition in the tournament; facing no. 1 France.
The United States had way steadier shooting than their previous game; shooting 52% from the floor. They relied more on the 1-point shot rather than trying to drain 2s.
The key to USA's success was offense and enough defense to hold off France.
Although USA didn't have as much success on the boards as France, they were able to clamp up enough on the perimeter to stop France from draining 2s.
Gray continued her offensive prowess, recording a game high eight points and six rebounds. Dolson continued to be a beast on the inside, shooting 100% for one-pointers. She was also the main distributer with two assists. Plum relied more on shooting this game, going 50% for one-pointers. Samuelson was still quiet but did record four points and had two rebounds.
USA prevailed and narrowly defeated France 21-17.
The next game against no.9 Germany featured a familiar face.
Dallas Wings forward, Satou Sabally faced her teammate Gray to try and lead Germany to a win.
Unfortunately for Sabally and the rest of the German team, the United States were too tough of a competition.
The United States featured a great balance of offense in defense from all four of the players.
Gray had five points and led USA in blocks with two. Dolson again took advantage of the heigh difference and recorded five points, four of them being one-pointers and also recorded a block. Plum led USA in points with seven on 100% shooting from one and three rebounds. Samuelson had an impressive game, joining the block party with one, recording four points and four rebounds.
Their defense was able to shut down all of Germany with the exception of Sabally who recorded eight points and six rebounds.
The United States defeated Germany 21-12.
The next game against no.15 Belarus was smooth sailing for the United States. There's not much say about this game other than pure dominance.
USA was able to run all over Belarus with this game only lasting 6:57, the sixth fastest game.
Plum wasn't as efficient in shooting, recording five points but with poor shooting but recorded three assists. But she was solid on the boards, recording three. Dolson shot 100% overall recording seven points. She also showed her that she has solid court vision, recording two assists as well as three rebounds. Gray continued her overall dominance, recording six points and four rebounds. The biggest highlight of this game was Samuelson. She had a breakout game recording five points and an absolutely impressive nine rebounds.
The United States throttled Uruguay 22-5.
After going 4-0 in their pool, the United States qualified for the Quarterfinals.
In their first task to move on to the semifinals, they had to face no. 11 Belarus.
For a quarterfinals game, it was a walk in the park for the USA.
Gray continued her efficient scoring with six points and also an absolutely outstanding nine rebounds to lead the game. Samuelson shot 100% from one for five points and had three rebounds. Plum added seven points but continued her playmaking abilities with three assists. Although Dolson didn't do well shooting wise, only recording three points, she was a menace on the boards, recording eight.
Although USA didn't have any blocks, their presence was still known defensively, enough to stop Belarus.
The United States defeated Belarus 21-10 to advance to the semifinals.
The final game for the United States was the semi-finals against no. 13 Spain was basically a formality for the United States as they were already a lock for the Olympics.
Spain, on the other hand, would have to play for the final spot whether or not they beat the USA.
Although Samuelson didn't hit any field goals, she recorded three free throws and two rebounds. Plum didn't shoot well but she did record four points, two rebounds and two assists, continuing her stellar playmaking abilities. Dolson and Gray completely dominated on both the offensive and defensive ends. Both recorded seven points and shot extremely efficiently from the floor. Dolson shot 75% from the floor and recorded four rebounds. Gray was completely dominant, recording an assist and a stellar eight rebounds.
With the 21-13 win against Spain, the United States clinched one of the final three spots to get to Tokyo.
Overall, the United States moved up seven spots to get ranked no. 1 in the world.
All eyes will be on the debut of 3x3 this summer in Tokyo. The United States are set to dominate and have their eyes on the first 3x3 Olympic gold medal.