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Current, former Gamecocks shine in Team USA exhibition game

Tyasha Harris, A’ja Wilson, Allisha Gray, and Tiffany Mitchell put on a show for Team USA

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The USA Basketball Women’s National Team held a domestic exhibition game on Wednesday, September 5, at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia. The “COLA”, as it’s affectionately called, is home to the South Carolina Gamecocks basketball teams.

The game was the first of three exhibition games before Team USA heads to Spain next week to participate in the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup, which will be held in Tenerife, Spain from September 22-28. It was an intrasquad scrimmage (Team Red vs. Team White) and allowed Team USA head coach Dawn Staley, who is also the Gamecocks’ women’s basketball head coach, to observe and determine which players move on toward securing a final spot on the 12-player roster for the World Cup.

For those who could not see the game in person, it was broadcast on NBA TV. ESPN’s Debbie Antonelli and Kara Lawson served as commentators; it was amusing to hear Antonelli mix up the last names of Nneka Ogwumike and Arike Ogunbowale, bless her heart. Staley joined them in the booth during the second quarter and gave her usual unique insight into coaching, her World Cup experience, and the Team USA transition (Staley coached the U18, U19, and Panama Games teams to gold medals and served as an Olympics asst coach under former Team USA head coach/UConn head coach Geno Auriemma).

The Connecticut Sun’s head coach Curt Miller and Gamecocks assistant coach Lisa Boyer were part of Team USA’s coaching staff. Seattle Storm head coach Dan Hughes will rejoin the team once the Storm complete the WNBA Finals.

Team White (Head coach: Cheryl Reeves, WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx)

Layshia Clarendon (Connecticut Sun)

Odyssey Sims (Los Angeles Sparks)

Stefanie Dolson (Chicago Sky)

A’ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces) 16/7 reb

Kelsey Mitchell (Indiana Fever)

Allisha Gray (Dallas Wings)

Jessica Shepard (Notre Dame)

Arike Ogunbowale (Notre Dame) 17/4

Napheesa Collier (UConn)

Team Red (Head coach: Jennifer Rizzotti, George Washington University)

Tina Charles (New York Liberty)

Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks)

Tiffany Mitchell (Indiana Fever)

Diamond DeShields (Chicago Sky) Kelsey Plum (Las Vegas Aces)

Morgan Tuck (Connecticut Sun)

Tyasha Harris (South Carolina)

Ruthy Hebard (Oregon)

Sabrina Ionescu (Oregon)

Elena Delle Donne (Washington Mystics), Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury), Jewell Loyd (Seattle Storm), Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm), Tiffany Hayes (Atlanta Dream), and Elizabeth Williams (Atlanta Dream) did not participate due to playoff commitments but could be added at a later date.

Ty Harris was the sole member of the current Gamecocks team to participate; former Gamecocks and current WNBA players A’Ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces), Allisha Gray (Dallas Wings), and Tiffany Mitchell (Indiana Fever) were also in the game. Team White beat Team Red, 100-75.

Harris seemed to have extended her shooting range to the top of the key, which will be helpful when the season starts in November. The South Carolina junior also looked a lot more confident on the court, which will serve her well as she will be expected to take more of a leadership role this year. Harris played 27 minutes and finished with 6 points and 2 assists.

Wilson continued her stellar WNBA rookie year as she improved her outside jump shot; this bodes well for the Las Vegas Aces next season. She was on the winning Team White and finished the game with 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 assist. Gray chipped in 12 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 assist for Team White. Mitchell scored 5 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists for Team Red.

Ogunbowale, also part of Team White, led all scorers on either team with 18 points, 3 rebounds, and 5 assists. She scored 11 points in the second half alone. Both Ogunbowale and Collier are widely considered to be first-round picks in the 2019 WNBA draft.

One of the best performances of the night belonged to DeShields (Team Red), whose athleticism is simply breathtaking (if you didn’t get to see her play this season for the Chicago Sky, you missed out). Her overseas experience served her well; DeShields looked very comfortable and scored 12 points in the first quarter. She ended the game with 16 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal. She made a good case for making the final roster.

Shepard (12 points, 4 rebounds), Tuck (12 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist) and Collier (10 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists) were also in double figures.

Wilson, Gray, and Mitchell will be among the 14 players who will continue on to Bridgeport, CT for the exhibition game against Canada. Elizabeth Williams will be joining the team as well. Tickets for the USA-Canada game can be purchased here. The game will be held Saturday, September 9 at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport at 7 pm ET. #DefendTheCup #USABWNT