Fowles finishes with 23 points to earn MVP honors; Storm's Swin Cash finishes with 13 points.
UNCASVILLE, Conn. — After a timeout with 4:21 remaining in the opening quarter of Saturday’s exhibition against WNBA stars, USA Basketball coach Geno Auriemma had a little chit-chat with center Sylvia Fowles.
And the message wasn’t “good job.”
In the biggest sign that the matchup between Olympic hopefuls and WNBA stars served a bigger purpose than your typical All-Star Game, Auriemma harped on Fowles to start playing like the dominant post she is. She responded and Team USA breezed to a 99-72 win before a sold-out crowd (9,518) at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Fowles was named MVP, finishing with 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting and eight rebounds.
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“Like he said, I have to be very dominating. If I’m not dominating, what’s the point of having me in the game?” said Fowles, who plays for the Chicago Sky. “I took that as a compliment and I wanted to prove him wrong. Honestly, I wasn’t looking for an MVP, I just wanted to go out there and play.”
Sitting for a majority of the first half, Fowles broke out in the third quarter, scoring USA’s opening seven points. The Americans led 68-37 after she hit her final basket with 3:38 remaining in the quarter.
“Sylvia is key; I don’t think there’s anybody in the world who can stop her when she has her mind set,” said Storm forward Swin Cash, who finished with 13 points and three assists. “As long as I’m around, I’m going to continue to push her because when you have somebody like that on your team that you know you need in order to win, it can’t always be the coach. It has to be Sue (Bird), it has to be Diana (Taurasi), it has to be me — not only getting on her, but motivating her and telling her she is that good.”
While Fowles is a lock to make the national team, many on both rosters were vying for positions. The WNBA agreed to help USA Basketball prepare for the World Championships starting in September by hosting the unique matchup, similar to the 2004 exhibition before the Athens Games.
Yet, there were some major disparities. The WNBA, coached by the Storm’s Brian Agler, had about 45 minutes together. Team USA, which will play a scrimmage against Australia on Sunday, had two sessions.
The time together showed as USA finished with 32 assists on its 42 made field goals. The WNBA had 11 assists.
“We got off to a great start in the training camp, and it led right into the game,” said Bird, who finished with five assists. “The assists are a product of a lot of really good players being selfless.”
But not everyone was happy with the format. Five of the 11 players on Team USA are from the WNBA’s Western Conference, so Agler noted things would have been different if the league played a traditional showcase.
“It was extremely lopsided,” said Indiana forward Katie Douglas, who led the WNBA with 15 points and three steals. “There were serious looks on faces, focus and intensity. East-West games are a lot more entertaining and fun for the fans. But I think they put on a good show, it’s just the scenario and the circumstances.”
• Douglas won the Three-Point Competition while Connecticut guard Renee Montgomery won the Skill Challenge.
• The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame named its class of 2011. Former WNBA president Val Ackerman, Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw, and players Ruthie Bolton, Vicky Bullet, Pearl Moore and Lometa Odom will be inducted.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org