The Americans rebounded with a big effort to beat Nigeria 93-62 on Sunday in the final pre-Olympic tune-up for both teams.
“It feels good,” said US coach Dawn Staley. “To go out and play like we did on both sides of basketball. We shared it, got the ball for our big guys. We have made a concerted effort to do so. I think everyone in the locker room feels good that they can impact the game in so many different ways. “
A’ja Wilson scored 16 points and Breanna Stewart added 14 to lead the United States, which lost back-to-back exhibition games for the first time since 2011 with losses to the WNBA All-Stars and Australia this week.
“Nobody wants to be on the losing team,” Wilson said. “I was kind of like uh-oh. People talk and jump the gun say anything and everything. The vets were like, it’s okay, it’s part of the game, we’ll be back. The coach came in today and said that we are back to our dominance and it helped me feel a little more comfortable. The people we have in the locker room are so talented. We know what we were doing. “
The Americans got off to a good start, taking a 20-4 lead. After shooting 2 for 18 from behind the 3-point arc in the loss to Australia, the United States hit the ball inside early and often against Nigeria. The first 10 points came from Wilson and Brittney Griner.
The United States led 29-15 after a quarter while Stewart had 10 points. Griner took over in the second quarter to help the Americans extend their lead to 55-34 at halftime. Nigeria never raced in the second half against the United States, who missed Diana Taurasi for the third consecutive exhibition game as she recovers from a hip injury.
She said on Saturday that she would be ready for the Olympics.
Nigeria’s roster is still undetermined for the Olympics which start next week. The African nation was trying to get Nneka Ogwumike and Elizabeth Williams to play for them. The two have filed appeals with the Court of Arbitration for Sport in a last ditch effort, said two people familiar with the situation.
The pair were told earlier this week by FIBA that their petition to play for the African nation had been turned down because they had been playing for the U.S. national program for too long. People spoke to The Associated Press on Friday on condition of anonymity because no official announcement had been made.
The two WNBA players are expected to have FIBA’s decision overturned before the entry deadline for Sunday night’s Olympics or ask the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to grant them a provisional allowance and add them to list until a hearing can take place.
Nigerian coach Otis Hughley Jr. was unsure of when and how CAS would decide.
“I wish I could answer these questions. I don’t know the answers to these questions, ”he said. “I’m locked into the girls we have who are eligible. I hope and pray that this will change. … It would be a welcome addition. “
Hughley was disappointed that FIBA would not allow Nneka Ogwumike and Williams to play for Nigeria at the Olympics.
“It’s unfortunate that it is going like this,” he said. “Parents and grandparents were both born there. Why wouldn’t you certify them? … In every country on this earth, there is an African. Why wouldn’t you let these kids go back to their own roots? “
Williams played for Nigeria in the exhibition match, while Ogwumike and her sister Chiney, who was approved to play as a naturalized player for Nigeria, were on the bench but not in uniform.
Nneka Ogwumike did not make the US Olympic roster, which sparked the chain of events that led her to try and play for Nigeria, where she and her sisters have dual citizenship.
Erica Ogwumike, the youngest of the four Ogwumike sisters, had five points for Nigeria. Atonye Nyingifa scored nine points to lead the team.
Nigeria have been a thriving team, reaching the quarter-finals of the 2018 World Cup before losing to the United States.
These two teams will face off at the Olympics on July 27.