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US women's hoops team rallies from 16 down to beat Canada Staff

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) — A’ja Wilson and Kelsey Plum helped the U.S. women’s national team avoid its first home loss in nearly 19 years.

The Las Vegas Aces teammates were key in the Americans’ rally from 16-down to beat Canada 74-68 on Saturday in an exhibition game.

Wilson had 15 points and 10 rebounds and Plum added eight points.

”I didn’t fret the score,” U.S. coach Dawn Staley said. ”I knew I was very sure we’d make a run and sure we’d get back in the game.”

The U.S. was shockingly down 16 in the first quarter and trailed 56-48 heading into the fourth quarter before finally getting going. Wilson, who was the AP WNBA rookie of the year, along with her Las Vegas Aces teammate Kelsey Plum, keyed the change in the fourth. The Americans hadn’t lost a game on home soil since 1999 when they dropped an exhibition contest at Tennessee. The U.S.’ last loss overall came in 2014 in France in a pre-world cup tournament.

The Americans were missing many of their players who will be competing in the FIBA Women’s World Cup which begins later this month in Tenerife, Canary Islands. Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart and Elena Delle Donne are still playing in the WNBA Finals. Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner just saw their WNBA season end after Phoenix was eliminated in the semifinals. The five Olympians are all expected to be part of the team that plays in the world cup.

Even without those stars, the U.S. still had 13 WNBA players on its team Saturday, including former WNBA MVPs Tina Charles and Nneka Ogwumike.

The Americans had just started training together this week while the majority of the Canadian team had been together for months.

The U.S. got off to a sluggish start, shooting just 19 percent in the first half (5 for 27) and trailed 40-28 at the break. The Americans were able to stay in the game by going 18-for-24 from the free throw line.

”I thought it was as bad a half that we could play,” Staley said. ”Obviously we couldn’t get the shots to fall. Coming out of the locker room at halftime it couldn’t get any worse. We needed to stay the course. Players who had been in these situations before. We found our rhythm a little bit and got control of the game.”

Kia Nurse gave Canada its early cushion and finished the game with 22 points.

”Held them to 28 points at halftime and we stopped making shots in the second half,” Canada coach Lisa Thomaidis said. ”The U.S. pounded us on the boards in the second half. We got some shots and we were right there, we weren’t able to knock them down at the end.”

The Americans trailed by eight heading into the fourth quarter, and a quick basket by Canada made it a double-digit deficit. That’s when Wilson and Plum got going. Her 3-pointer with 4:10 left gave the U.S. its first lead since 2-0. Wilson then added two free throws.

After a Canada basket, both teams went scoreless for a bit before Elizabeth Williams’ layup with just under 2 minutes left made it a five-point game and Canada could get no closer than three the rest of the way.

The U.S. will play Japan on Monday in an exhibition game in Washington. Canada beat Japan on Friday night