France shocks US women 76-72 in exhibition game
PARIS (AP) Sandrine Gruda had 26 points and 15 rebounds to help France stun the U.S. women's national team 76-72 in an exhibition game on Sunday.
It's the first loss by the Americans in an international game since falling to a team from the Czech Republic in 2011 when the U.S. was on a European tour.
The Americans, who beat the French by 36 points in the gold medal game at the Olympics in 2012, had a 12-point halftime lead and were up 60-52 with 6:39 left in the game before the hosts rallied. France led 71-67 with 27 seconds left after Celine Dumerc, who plays for the Atlanta Dream in the WNBA, hit a jumper. Maya Moore made a 3-pointer 7 seconds later to make it a one-point game.
After the teams exchanged free throws, Dumerc made the first of two from the foul line before corralling her own miss with nine seconds left to seal the win.
''We talked to the players about how difficult all this is going to be,'' U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said. ''Sometimes maybe we think this is going to be easy, but it's not going to be easy. It's not easy to beat a really good team on their home floor if you don't shoot the ball well, if you don't make shots. The way we started in the first quarter, I thought we started the right way. Our defense was really good. Our offense was going. And then when we got into a little bit of a lull, France and Sandrine (Gruda) especially, they just made shots. They deserved to win tonight. No question about that.''
Tina Charles scored 12 points to lead the U.S., which shot just 40 percent (27 for 67) from the field. Moore missed her first nine shots before hitting the 3 that brought the Americans within one. Diana Taurasi was 3 for 13 from the field. The U.S. was also outrebounded 44-38.
The U.S. is still trying to finalize its roster before the world championship. After the game the Americans cut Skylar Diggins, Kayla McBride and Stefanie Dolson, who didn't play in the loss. That leaves 13 players, and the U.S. needs to be at 12 by the tournament.
''This was a very difficult decision,'' said U.S. national team director Carol Callan. ''Given the quality and depth of our USA national team pool, the final decisions will always be tough. But, our future is bright knowing that these players have a hunger and desire to continue to get better and be a part of our pool. We look forward to seeing them at future camps. We certainly appreciate all that they have given and will continue to give to USA Basketball.''
The Americans are still awaiting word on whether 6-foot-8 center Brittney Griner can join the roster pool. She was sidelined by a retinal injury in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals and is awaiting doctor's clearance. With returning Olympians Candace Parker and Sylvia Fowles out with injuries, the U.S. was lacking an inside presence against France.
The U.S. will head to the Czech Republic for one more exhibition game before opening up the world championship against China on Sept. 27.
''I think in my experience every loss has been a good thing,'' three-time Olympic gold medalist Sue Bird said. ''It's kind of woken us up and showed us some things that we need to work on. Usually, it plays out to our favor. I can think of literally every time I've lost in this USA jersey, and it's helped us, so that's how we are looking at it. That's why you play these games leading up to a competition, to see what you need to work on. And we definitely found out some things.''