U.S. Women’s Basketball Falls To World No. 2 Australia In Exhibition

by Steve Drumwright

Ezi Magbegor (Australia) shoots against A'ja Wilson during an exhibition game on July 16, 2021 in Las Vegas.


LAS VEGAS — The 200th exhibition win in U.S. women’s national basketball team history will have to wait until another day.
Ezi Magbegor, who plays with the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, scored 17 points as Australia knocked off the U.S. 70-67 on Friday at Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay. It was the second straight exhibition loss in three days for the U.S., which fell to the WNBA All-Stars 93-85 Wednesday as it prepares for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Breanna Stewart led the U.S. with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while A’ja Wilson had 12 points.
The U.S. was again without four-time gold medalist Diana Taurasi, who has a hip injury.
Australia played without star Liz Cambage, who took herself off the Olympic roster Thursday following an incident in a scrimmage against Nigeria earlier in the day. Cambage also plays for the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces.
Perhaps to compensate for Cambage’s absence, the Aussies came out strong and took a 12-6 lead. But the U.S. climbed back to tie it 13-13 on a Jewell Loyd stepback. Chelsea Gray hit a fadeaway at the buzzer to end the quarter tied 19-19.
Stewart took over in the second quarter and the Americans really established control of the glass. In addition to her 10 points in the second, Stewart added another four rebounds to give her eight for the half. That helped the U.S. grab a 27-16 rebounding advantage.
Australia chipped away in the third quarter and trimmed the U.S. lead to 56-51. Two quick turnovers to begin the fourth were converted into points and a 59-58 lead, forcing a U.S. timeout with 8:07 remaining.
Australia took a 70-66 lead with 1:57 left and the U.S. didn’t score again until Brittney Griner made the second of two free throws with 17 seconds left. Forced to foul, the U.S. didn’t have any team fouls until four consecutive fouls and then Leilani Mitchell went out of bounds with 10.9 seconds left, giving the Americans a chance.
But Stewart’s open 3-pointer from the right wing was off the mark, giving Australia the win.
The U.S. wraps up pre-Olympic play Sunday against Nigeria. The 2:30 p.m. game will be on the Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA.

Steve Drumwright is a journalist based in Murrieta, California. He is a freelance contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.