Elena Delle Donne had dreamed of playing basketball in the Olympics since she was little.
She’ll get her chance next week as a member of the U.S. women’s team. Before heading to Rio, Delle Donne got an opportunity to celebrate at home in Delaware with a lot of the fans who have been watching her play since she was in eighth grade.
She scored 10 points to help the U.S. beat France 84-62 in an exhibition game at the University of Delaware on Wednesday night.
“It was by far the most emotional game I played at (Delaware),” said Delle Donne, who helped Delaware reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament her senior year. “Seeing faces that had watched me here since eighth grade and have been on the entire journey with me and now see me in a USA jersey. It’s been my dream my entire life. It’s so special to come out and share it with them. This is a really special night. There have been a lot of special nights on this court. This is the biggest night. It’s a dream come true for me and the fans as well.”
A loud, spirited crowd gave her quite the ovation when she was announced before the start of the game. They cheered for her and the rest of the U.S. team the rest of the game.
“That’s amazing what happened today. That’s really awesome to see the fans come out and support her and us,” Diana Taurasi said. “She’s obviously done so much for the state. That was really nice for us to get a reception like that for our team. It’s rare that we play in America we’re usually across the pond. That was cool, getting the USA chants from the whole crowd, that felt really good. That hasn’t happened a lot in my 14 years with the national team.”
The game was a rematch of the 2012 London Olympics gold medal game that the Americans won 86-50. This time the U.S. took a half to get going, which wasn’t a total surprise as the Americans have had little training since getting together for the first time as a full team Saturday in Los Angeles.
They played Monday night against a U.S. select team, winning by four, before flying across country for this three-game exhibition series. France’s core has been together for months qualifying for the Rio Olympics in a last chance tournament in June.
The U.S. only led by one at the half, but used a 9-2 spurt to start the third quarter spearheaded by Charles and Moore to create some space. The Americans extended the lead to 63-46 after three quarters.
France couldn’t get within 15 the rest of the way.
Marine Johannes scored 13 points to lead France.
Tina Charles scored 17 points and Maya Moore added 13 to lead the Americans.
With the U.S. leading 12-9 early on, Delle Donne made a hustle play on the defensive end, sprinted down the court and was rewarded with an open 3-pointer much to the delight of the fans.
The U.S. extended the lead to six, but France wouldn’t capitulate, taking a brief 31-30 advantage late in the first half. The Americans led 32-31 at the break.
The Americans will face Canada on Friday in Bridgeport, Connecticut. France will play Australia in the second game of this exhibition series. All four teams will conclude play at Madison Square Garden in New York on Sunday.
From there the U.S. will head to Houston to meet up with the men’s basketball Olympic team before both head to Rio together. The women open Olympic play on Sunday, Aug. 7 against Senegal. The U.S. has won 41 consecutive Olympic contest and five straight gold medals.