Sylvia Fowles, Team USA Hold off UConn for 79-64 Victory in Exhibition

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJanuary 28, 2020

HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT - JANUARY 27: Sue Bird #6 of the United States looks on during a shot clock violation call committed to honor former NBA player Kobe Bryant during USA Women's National Team Winter Tour 2020 game between the United States and the UConn Huskies at The XL Center on January 27, 2020 in Hartford, Connecticut.  Bryant and his daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash on January 26. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Team USA is in the early stages of its preparations for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in February and the 2020 Summer Olympics, and the team's rust showed on Monday night against UConn.

The Huskies gave Team USA all they could handle, though eventually, the Olympic favorites pulled away in the fourth quarter, winning 79-64 behind 19 points from Sylvia Fowles. UConn's Megan Walker led all scorers with 22 points. 

UConn Women's Hoops @UConnWBB

MW3 with back-to-back threes and UConn is on a 15-2 run! #BleedBlue https://t.co/aXrXJ6E1Qd

That result was in question early, however, as the game went into halftime tied at 31 apiece. 

USA Basketball @usabasketball

Welcome back champ @breannastewart 🇺🇸 #USABWNT https://t.co/urREmYtfU5

It would be unwise to draw too many conclusions from the close call, however. Team USA's players had one practice together ahead of Monday's exhibition, while UConn is in the middle of its season and is 19-1 on the year. 

Team USA led 22-11 after the first quarter but UConn came storming back, rattling off a 17-2 run in the second quarter to take the lead.

UConn Women's Hoops @UConnWBB

FOR. THE. LEAD. #BleedBlue https://t.co/bEn2K8T3Zk

Things stayed tight until the fourth quarter, when Team USA's talent and experience helped them pull away from the Huskies, ending the game on a 25-8 run. 

"This was similar in the first half to what Oregon felt like in the second half. I felt like we responded better," Sue Bird said after the win, per NBC Sports Northwest. "We didn't get shell-shocked, we didn't let the crowd affect us. We took the hit and hit right back." 

The night also took on a somber tone following the deaths of Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, Sarah and Payton Chester, John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser and Ara Zobayan in a helicopter crash on Sunday. 

Bryant was an advocate for the women's game, and his daughter, Gianna, was a huge UConn fan who had dreamed of one day playing for the school. Both Bryants were honored before the contest. 

ESPN @espn

UConn head coach Geno Auriemma and members of Team USA share their thoughts on Kobe Bryant before tonight's game. https://t.co/vJVvDhOMms

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

UConn women's basketball team put out an honorary jersey for Gigi Bryant before an exhibition game against Team USA tonight (via @ariivory) https://t.co/b9ynCnlHvo

ESPN @espn

A 24-second moment of silence was held for Kobe and Gianna Bryant before the Uconn-Team USA game. https://t.co/jBeDTfPH7i

Team USA next faces the University of Louisville at 2 p.m. ET on Feb. 2, while UConn is back in action on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET.