Sheryl Swoopes Gives Fans
A Perfect 19-Point Showing In Texas Tech Homecoming
12 , 2004 Lubbock,
|USA forward Tamika Catchings
was unstoppable with a 17-point, 11-rebound performance against Japan.
Returning to her alma mater where she helped
Texas Tech to the 1993 NCAA championship, Sheryl
Swoopes (Houston Comets) scored 19 points on a perfect 8-of-8 from
the field as the USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team ran past
Japan 118-66 Monday night at the United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, Texas.
Swoopes' game high 19 points paced seven U.S. players in double digits,
three of whom notched double-doubles, as the team improved its record
to 12-0 for its spring tour.
"When we started (playing together), I was concerned that we weren't
going to share the basketball," said USA and Houston Comets head
coach Van Chancellor.
"We had 33 assists against the (WBCA) College All-Stars, we had 30
the other night and 27 tonight. We're shooting better than 60 percent,
and I realize that the team we're playing is not a very big team, but
at the same time ... sometimes as a coach I forget to coach, I enjoy watching
them as a fan. I thought this was a very entertaining and exciting game
tonight. I was really pleased with Sheryl (Swoopes). It's not every time
you can come home and go 8-for-8, have two rebounds, three assists, one
steal and only one turnover. And you do all of that in 21 minutes. We
just have a team that really plays, our second unit goes out and they're
up by 15 and they're fighting for loose balls. I feel like I'm the luckiest
coach in the world coaching this team."
Unlike in Denver on Friday night, where Japan was faced with the double-whammy
of fighting jet lag and altitude and struggled early, the Japanese squad
came out strong and with 4:05 remaining in the first quarter held an 18-17
lead. However, after three knotted scores and a pair of Japanese leads
up to that point, Swoopes fittingly gave the Americans the lead for good
on a jumper at 3:37 (19-18).
"I felt really good coming back here to play," said Swoopes.
"All of my teammates were teasing me, saying you built this
arena, what are you going to do? What are you going to show them? What
are you going to give them?' But it was a lot of fun. I thought we came
out and executed, especially offensively, until coach Chancellor called
the first time out and got on us a little bit about not playing any defense.
We were all trying to get out and run and get some fast break points.
But I felt really good tonight, I felt I was shooting the ball really
well. We moved the ball well, we executed well offensively and my shot
was just falling tonight."
After shooting 36.2 percent (25-69 FGs) overall in the April 9 contest,
Japan started out tonight's game red hot at 75.0 percent (8-12 FGs). In
another contrast from Friday night, when the Americans owned a commanding
35-15 first quarter lead, they were up 30-25 at the end of the first quarter
But the close game would not last long. The U.S. turned it up its signature
defensive intensity in the second quarter and forced Japan into 31.3 percent
(5-16 FGs), while the Americans' offense nailed a sizzling 81.3 percent
(13-16 FGs) of its tries and by halftime the red, white and blue had the
game well in hand 63-38. Shannon Johnson (San Antonio Silver Stars) kicked
off the second quarter with a steal after a Sue Bird (Seattle Storm) steal
to spur the 33-13 run that saw the United States go up by as many as 27,
63-38, with 57 seconds to go.
With nothing left to guess but the final score, the USA won the third
period 31-13 and the fourth 24-15 for the final 52-point victory.
In addition to Swoopes' 19 point-effort, Lisa
Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks) posted 18 points and 10 rebounds, Tamika
Catchings (Indiana Fever) posted a double-double of 17 points and
a game high 11 rebounds, Swin
Cash (Detroit Shock) was credited with 14 points and 10 rebounds,
Katie Smith (Minnesota
Lynx) and Natalie
Williams (Indiana Fever) each tossed in 12, while Tina
Thompson (Houston Comets) chipped in 10 points.
Shooting a blistering 61.4 percent (51-83 FGs) from the field, the USA's
defense held Japan to 42.6 percent (26-61 FGs) on the night and converted
22 Japanese turnovers into 37 points. Again the U.S. held a commanding
rebounding advantage 52-18 and passed off for 27 assists on 51 field goals.
The U.S. caps its three-game series with Japan, as well as its 2004 training
schedule, on April 13 (7:30 p.m. local time) at Toyota Center in Houston,
Texas, home of the WNBA Houston Comets' Chancellor, Swoopes and Thompson.
Opening its spring training with a sweep of a three-game series versus
Cuba in Havana Feb. 24-26, the American women followed that up by claiming
victories in all six games played Feb. 19-27 during its European Tour.
The USA opened its April 2-13 domestic tour with a dominating win over
the WBCA All-Stars during the women's NCAA Final Four. Upon the conclusion
of its April training, the U.S. team members will break for the WNBA season
and reconvene on Aug. 3 to complete their pre-Olympic training at sites
to be announced.
The U.S. squad is competing currently without DeLisha
Milton-Jones (Los Angeles Sparks), who tore the ACL in her right knee
on Feb. 22.
USA head coach VAN CHANCELLOR, Houston Comets
On the crowd:
Can you believe those fans tonight? They're the most unbelievable
... I've always seen them from a distance when I did some TV work and
scouting here. But to stand up when they introduced the U.S. team. I felt
a sense of pride in coaching the U.S. women's basketball team tonight.
It was so unbelievable. During the introduction when they started with
Pee Wee Johnson, they stood up (and stayed standing) and that was such
a thrill to see that happen. It's such a joy to play the kind of game
we played tonight in front of people who can appreciate your play. No
wonder coach (Marsha) Sharp has built such a program here, they have some
of the best fans I've ever seen. That was unbelievable tonight.
Does Diana Taurasi have a chance at making this team?
If you were the coach would you put her on this team? I think so.
I think she has a pretty good shot after tonight. I don't make that decision
though, we have a (USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team) Committee,
but I'm going to strongly recommend that we need to take a look at her.
I thought she was pretty special tonight. I didn't play her, I didn't
bring her in. I was testing her a little bit, I put her in last twice
and she responded and played. Her passing tonight was as good as I've
ever seen her pass.
Have you ever seen a player come out of college this far advanced?
I've never seen anything like it. She joined our team and has played
since day one. It's been the most amazing thing I've ever seen. On the
court she plays like a veteran, off the court she acts like a rookie.
That's the way it is. In the morning when we go to the airport, if the
players need a little breakfast, the rookie's going to go get it and she
jumped it just like that. And then when she gets on the court, she plays
like a veteran. She doesn't turn the ball over a lot, she makes good decisions
and shoots a nice percentage. I don't want to jump ahead of the Committee
... and she played fragmented minutes tonight. Disjointed minutes. Three
minutes here, played with this team, played with that team, and that's
hard to do. That's nothing but a test of a young player to see if we can
carry her to Athens and see if she could not play in certain games and
then be fine with it. If she keeps playing like that, that won't be a
problem, she's playing really well.
SUE BIRD, Seattle Storm
On the Japanese team:
The Japanese team is very well coached. You could see that they have
a game plan and they know how to execute it. And when they're hot, they're
really hard to stop. But Fortunately we're taller, bigger, so it's hard
for them to compete against us. I can see them, they give us trouble,
giving a lot of teams problems ... setting the screens, they're consistently
moving, always looking out for each other, very unselfish and very hard
On the team's chemistry right now:
It's a combination of things. Everyone on this team is very talented.
Everyone on this team is very unselfish. You put those things together
and then you have the experience and the chemistry that the veterans have,
Dawn (Staley), Sheryl (Swoopes), Lisa (Leslie), Katie (Smith), Nat (Williams),
they have all been playing together for so long. Then you add in the younger
players, who are looking for whatever they need to do to be out there
and it's a really good match.
TAMIKA CATCHINGS, Indiana Pacers
On her game tonight
I just came out tonight really focused on getting on the boards and
trying to get loose balls. That's one thing, the last couple of games
I've been a little tired and I was conserving energy in a way. So I wanted
to come out the last games and go out with a bang.
On the team's chemistry right now:
It's a combination of all the work we put in and we pretty much know
each other as players. We watch each other during the (WNBA) season and
now with Diana (Taurasi) coming in ... she's done a great job picking
everything up really quick and fitting in. That's one of the great things
about this team, we all do click on and off the court. There are no ego
trips and I think that makes things a lot easier when we play.
SHERYL SWOOPES, Houston Comets
On playing in the United Spirit Arena:
Tonight was everything I thought it would be and a little bit more.
I've been here a couple of times, I've come back to watch the Lady Raiders
play, but I haven't really had the chance to really enjoy it. I've teased
coach (Marsha) Sharp about coming here and I asked when I was going to
get a chance to play in it and my wish came true. It was definitely a
lot of fun. The fans were great, like I knew they would be. We came out,
both teams, especially early on, and gave them a really good show. Hopefully
I'll get to do it again someday.
You got a lot of Swoopes' chants, how did that feel?
It still sounded good. When we were walking off the floor, my teammates
said, they're not booing you are they?' And I said, are you
kidding me?' It definitely felt like home, coming back here and getting
the opportunity to play with some of the best players in the world and
giving the fans here an opportunity that not many people get. Coach Sharp
said it best when she said that they're getting a chance to watch what's
probably going to be the Olympic team. And not many people get the opportunity
to see that. I thought we came out and gave them exactly what they paid
for. I thought everybody really enjoyed it. Japan came out, especially
in the first half, and really executed well, they couldn't miss. We knew
it was going to be a game like that, we have another one tomorrow, but
it was good. It's always good to come back home where it all started.
I was pleased with not just my performance, but our performance as a team.
On Japan's team not giving up:
Sometimes we wonder if they're ever going to get to a point where
they just quit or give up and they don't. They're a very well coached
team, they execute, they're very fundamental. They're not your typical
basketball team. They have five players out there and every player plays
every position and they're really hard to defend. They're going to go
to the Olympics and surprise a lot of people. We've had the opportunity
to play them before and they've always come out, regardless of what the
score is, they never quit, they always fight hard, they play well together.
It's a challenge for us. Especially the first part of the game, they came
out and shot the ball really well. We knew at that point that we had to
play a lot better defense than we had been playing. Overall I think they're
a very good team.
What would it mean for you to bring home a third gold medal?
The first Olympics I played in, in Atlanta, I thought that
would be my first and last. Then I went to Sydney and thought that would
be my last. And now I'm getting the opportunity to go for my third gold
medal in Athens where it all began. Not that the other two weren't special
to me, but I think this one will probably be more special with the fact
that it is going to be in Athens where it all started. And for me to have
the opportunity to go back there with coach Chancellor and playing with
Tina (Thompson), it just makes this that much more special. Obviously
it's a huge honor. Anytime you get the opportunity to represent your country
and considering everything we've gone through the past year, past couple
of years, everything that's going on right now, anytime you have the opportunity
to go and do something like this to represent your country, it has to
be special for you. So this one is definitely going to be special for
So does that mean this is your last run?
Oh, I'm not saying that. I'm getting older. That's all I'm saying
(grinning). But I think there's a lot of great talent out there. You guys
got a glimpse of it tonight with the young players we have on our team.
Players like Diana Taurasi, who is definitely going to be a great pro,
a great player on this level. I just think that you get to a point that
you've accomplished everything you've set out to do and I've pretty much
done that. I think it's time for me to move over a little bit and give
the younger players an opportunity to do some of the things that I've
done, plus a lot more. But you should never say never.
DIANA TAURASI, University of Connecticut
On tonight's game:
Everyone played well, and the biggest thing with this team is that
when we play well, when we share the ball, good things happen for everyone.
You saw that today, I think we had seven or eight in double figures. That
shows they share the ball between everyone out there.
On her experience with the USA Senior National Team:
Just being on this team right now is an opportunity that hopefully
I can take advantage of. I've learned so much in the little time I've
been with them. I've been with them for three or four days and they're
really welcoming people, they've taken me in.
What's it like being the rookie?
It's funny, you go from college when you're the senior, you play all
the minutes, to being the last one off the bench. But this team makes
it easy, I'm not worried. I'm just trying to learn from the older guys
who have a lot of experience playing international ball.
Van Chancellor talked about how quickly you adjusted to the game coming
off the bench and played really well:
It wasn't that big of a deal for me. I played at Connecticut as a
freshman surrounded with great players and I came off the bench. As long
as I get to play a little bit, and even if I don't I'm just excited to
On the Japanese team:
The Japanese team is one of the hardest teams to play against in the
world. I played against them three years ago with the (USA) Junior National
Team and just the way to play, it's fun to watch. It's fun to play against
them because they pass, they cut, they shoot threes, they might lack a
little in size which gives them trouble, but other than that they play
basketball as well as anyone in the world.
On playing against 2001 Japan Junior National Team member Yuko Oga
Little Iverson? Yeah, she gave us about 20 in D.C. (in the 2001 USA Basketball
International Invitational prior to the 2001 FIBA Junior World Championship).
So I've known her for three or four years. She's awesome, she's a great
player, she's always smiling, I really enjoy playing against her.