SYDNEY (AP) – Breanna Stewart scored 22 points and Alyssa Thomas scored 14 points, nine assists and seven rebounds on her debut with the United States, who beat Belgium 87-72 in the opening round of the World Cup on Thursday.
Jewell Loyd also scored 14 points for the short-handed US team, which still lacked Las Vegas Aces players A’ja Wilson, Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum. They were on their way to Australia after celebrating the franchise’s first WNBA championship with a parade on Tuesday. The trio is expected to be in Sydney on Friday. Connecticut players Sun Thomas and Brionna Jones arrived in Australia about 30 hours before the tip.
Thomas and Jones were two of the six players on the roster who hadn’t played for the United States in either the World Cup or the Olympics.
This team is very different from the one that won their third consecutive gold in Spain in 2018. Sue Bird is retired and Diana Taurasi is also out. Brittney Griner, who would have been part of this team, is in a Russian prison after being convicted of drug possession last month in a politically charged case and sentenced to nine years in prison. The US government is trying to secure their release.
These teams met in the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, with the Americans using a great third quarter to pull away and win by 16.
The Americans jumped 12-0 ahead before Belgium settled down to re-enter one. The United States extended their lead behind Stewart and Loyd again and were leading 48-39 at the half. The Americans went 12-4 to start the third quarter and put the game away.
The United States did an exceptional job on the defensive on the Belgian Emma Meesseman. The Chicago Sky star led the Olympics in last year’s scoring, averaging 26.8 points. She had four against the United States, who have now won 23 consecutive World Cup games since losing in the 2006 semi-finals to Russia. The Americans are three wins before equaling their record of 26 straight games from 1998 to 2006.
Julie Vanloo scored 13 points leading Belgium.
USA Basketball has decided not to let anyone wear Griner’s No. 15 in this tournament. Americans have long used the numbers 4 to 15. Brionna Jones, who would have been 15, wore no. 16
Puerto Rico beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 82-58 for the country’s first ever World Cup victory.
TRIPLE DOUBLE CLOCK
Thomas, who has scored a triple-double in each of his last two WNBA Finals matches, has failed to secure first place at the World Cup since Erika Dobrovicova did so in 1994 for the Slovak Republic against Spain. Assists and rebounds were not retained until 1994.
Belgium: will face South Korea on Friday.
USA: will play in Puerto Rico on Friday.