Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson
Christen Home Court With Combined 29 Points
13 , 2004 Houston,
Shannon 'Pee Wee' Johnson has been hustling on both ends of the court
from day one through tonight's game against Japan. And it paid off
-- the USA is 13-0! (Photo: Bill Baptist)
Playing their first game on their new home
court, Houston Comets standouts Sheryl
Swoopes and Tina
Thompson helped the 2004 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team
close out its 13-game spring training with an unblemished record after
defeating Japan 104-67 for the third time in five nights. The contest,
played at Houston's Toyota Center, featured five U.S. players in double
digits, including a game high 18 points apiece from Lisa
Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks) and Thompson, who also grabbed 10 rebounds.
"As I was walking down the hall (from the locker room), we have
played four games in America, which we have won relatively easy,"
said USA and Houston Comets head coach Van
Chancellor, who is being aided in the sidelines by three-time Olympian
and Seattle Storm head coach Anne
Donovan. "When you do that, you become, I need to get a
shot', and you're up 40 or 30 and, once again, I look up and we've got
30 assists, we had 39 baskets and 30 assists off those. Our depth is just
unbelievable. Tina Thompson has 10 rebounds and 18 points, and our bench
had 15, 16, nine and four (points). This is just a really good team."
The USA once again started out strong as Thompson scored four of eight
unanswered points to kick-start the night. Japan got on the board at 7:14
and after a pair of free throws from Leslie, the USA's lead was 10-2.
Taeko Oyama found the net for a pair of back-to-back baskets as Japan
trailed 10-6 with 6:27 to go in the first quarter. However, the Americans'
offense was spurred by its ferocious defense as the U.S., sparked by a
Swoopes 3-pointer at 6:15, went on an 11-0 drive that split the game wide
open 21-6 with 2:14 remaining in the quarter. By the end of the first
period, the United States was up 23-11 after shooting 10-of-19 from the
field (.526), while Japan was held to a paltry 5-of-23 (.217).
After each team posted seven points apiece (30-18), Swin
Cash (Detroit Shock) netted six points in a 12-2 push that put the
game out of reach, 42-20, at 4:53. Outscoring Japan 8-4 over the remaining
minutes, the United States retired to the locker room with a commanding
Unlike the previous two games, the Japanese came out on fire in the third
quarter, shooting 68.8 percent
(11-16 FGs) to outscore the USA 29-27 during that span. However, the United
States' 26-point halftime lead was too much to overcome and after taking
the fourth quarter 27-14, the U.S. closed out its tour with another victory.
"I think that's one of the things that's just unbelievable with
this team," said Thompson. "(The fact) that although we have
different players from different teams, they have special roles on that
team, but when we come together, the team is not selfish at all as individuals
but it's just amazing how everyone comes together and has their individuality
within this atmosphere and brings whatever it is that they specialize
in, or their specialty, or what makes them special players that they are,
to bring it into this atmosphere and still have it blossom. I think everyone's
talked about Swin (Cash) and Tamika (Catchings) about the tenacity that
they have, no matter the score. The last couple of minutes of the game,
we were up 40-50 points and they were fighting each other for a loose
ball. That's how they play. That's something that you admire and respect
about them that no matter what the score, no matter the time in the game,
they bring the same intensity all the time. I can say that about everyone
on this team, but those two are the scrappiest I've ever seen and it's
a joy to watch."
In addition to Leslie and Thomoson's 18 points, Tamika
Catchings (Indiana Fever) scored 16, Cash had 15 and Swoopes pitched
in 11. Sue Bird (Seattle
Storm) and Diana Taurasi
(University of Connecticut), who won her third NCAA title exactly a week
ago tonight, passed off for game highs of six assists each and Leslie
was credited with four blocked shots.
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 and tonight's game
was the third victory in as many contests against Japan.
Over its 13 games, the U.S. outscored opponents 90.9 ppg. to 58.6 ppg.,
and outrebounded foes 42.2 rpg. to 24.6 rpg. Four players finished in
double digits, led by Leslie's 18.3 ppg., Thompson pitched in 16.5 ppg.,
Williams scored 12.7 ppg. and Swoopes tossed in 10.7 ppg. Leslie also
led the U.S. on the glass with 6.6 rpg. and Johnson and Bird passed off
55 and 48 assists, respectively.
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 compe 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 difficulty that the selection committee will be faced with when
watching the play of Swin Cash and Diana Taurasi:
After watching what (Swin) Cash and (Diana) Taurasi have done, I'd
like to have to give them serious consideration. They've had some tremendous
games. I'm not the (USA Basketball Women's National Team) Committee. They
might take a week or two weeks. They'll decide who they're going to name.
On whether the game tonight showed him anything different from previous
This was just a repeat. We played good tonight
you could tell we
were playing a back-to-back
but it was about the same thing as the
other two nights.
On the unselfishness of a team filled with All-Stars:
Yeah, they just go in and play. They say if you give me a minute, I'm
going to play it and play it hard and play it for the good of the team.
It's something about putting on this USA jersey. As soon as you put it
on, selfishness goes out the door.
On the play tonight of Diane Taurasi:
Nine points, six assists, one rebound in 13 minutes of playing time and
made passes and made plays. Six assists in 13 minutes of playing time
is pretty good. That's a pretty good player.
On guarding against over-coaching:
I don't believe I've coached enough in the last three games, that I wouldn't
think it was over-coaching. I think I got up off the bench but one time.
Maybe if we get in a close game we might, but right now we're just rolling
On whether he's looking forward to the start of the WNBA season:
I'm really looking forward to it. I'm really looking forward to our team.
We've got some new players that I think are going to be exciting. I'm
ready for the Comets' season to start, I'm ready for us to try to go to
Athens, Greece and win a gold (medal). My energy level for coaching is
high. People keep asking me how this is going to do, but on April 25th
(start of the WNBA season), I'll have the same energy level for the Comets.
This probably has heightened my off-season work in coaching. I probably
have worked harder in the off-season coaching than I have in the last
three years put together, X's and O's. That's because I've had to do it
for them and it just kind of whetted my appetite, so to speak.
On the play of Japan:
Japan has just completely amazed me with how they pass and shoot the ball.
(Taeko Oyama) is just phenomenal. You can't leave them open for anything.
It's been a great experience because there are three teams from the Asian
countries and two of them are in our pool, that's why we played Japan.
We want to get used to playing those teams. They all play the same style;
South Korea and China. That's how they play run to the basket,
kick it out, shoot the ball. I just hope they don't all shoot as good
as this team.
SUE BIRD, Seattle Storm
On what she got out of the 13 exhibition games:
A lot of great experience. I got to play and hang out with some of the
best players in the world. I think it really helped our chemistry; we're
not going to have that much time to prepare for Athens, so this was really
crucial for us.
On what she thinks about the USA team in comparison to national teams
that she has seen in the past:
In comparison? I can't really tell you that much, but what a group of
players. The talent level is obviously there, but on top of that everyone
is so unselfish, everyone just wants to win, willing to give up of themself
to do that so it's a pretty special group of people.
SWIN CASH, Detroit Shock
On playing with the USA team:
I am able to adjust and I think that helps the best. You know, one team-one
goal. It's not an individual thing, you represent the franchise, you're
representing the United States of America, so, I think that you are more
willing to be accepting of a role.
TAMIKA CATCHINGS, Indiana Fever
On her impression of the game:
Hopefully, it was a good one.. One of the things I really focus on when
I go play the game is that I love to play basketball and I always want
the ball. That's what's so important about my game, the passion that I
have when I'm trying to get the ball.
On team goals:
Definitely, when you play on a team with the best players in the world
it's just that knowledge, that common sense that you want to win a gold
medal. You can't be worried about yourself and one thing about this team
is that we share the ball really well. You saw that tonight. Everybody's
shooting, everybody's on the board, everybody's playing defense, everybody's
doing everything because we all have the same goal.
On Diana Taurasi's move from the NCAA:
I'm definitely not surprised, you know Taurisi is a great player, it's
a great tribute to her game and she really deserves it. She comes out
here and she works hard and you know she's tired from the whole year and
getting ready for the WNBA season, but she hasn't let up and that's one
thing great players do.
On the tour being over:
I don't know about being glad, we're so far out. I'm really anxious to
get to Athens. Forget about training camp, let's just go straight to Athens.
SHERYL SWOOPES, Houston Comets
On her homecoming to Lubbock for an exhibition game:
I got a little emotional. It was fun. It was good to go back home. I enjoyed
it. The fans were wonderful.
On whether there is ever a doubt about the game's outcome:
Never. Every time we step out on the floor we think we are going to win,
or we feel like we're going to win. It feels good.
On what she got out of the 13 exhibition games:
First of all, me being more of a veteran at times as opposed to the first
couple of times that I did it. Obviously, I'm more of a leader this time
and went into the whole thing really knowing what to expect from my teammates,
from other teams we were going to play. Going to Cuba, then Poland and
playing Japan we kind of knew what to expect. Obviously, I thought that
this little bit of time that we had training together was crucial for
us to get an opportunity to learn new players, and for other players to
get an opportunity to play for coach Chancellor. He's a hard man to understand
sometimes, but it was a lot of fun.
On Coach Van Chancellor's accent:
We go overseas and he's saying, Well, I don't understand what they're
saying,' in Cuba, in Poland, in Hungary. And I say, Well coach they
don't understand what you're saying either. Some of us don't understand
what you're saying.' But coach Chancellor is such a great guy. So laid
back and easy going. As professional athletes we know what it takes to
win. We can go off the court and have as much fun as possible, but once
we step out on the floor, it's all about business. He did a great job
of mixing the younger players and older players together, and I'm very
happy and very proud for him that he's getting this opportunity.
DIANA TAURASI, University of Connecticut
On how much time she has gotten to spend at home between the NCAA Championship
and joining Team USA:
The last week has been pretty crazy. Obviously the national championship
and I joined the team Thursday in Denver so the last week and a half has
been pretty busy.
On her experience with the team thus far:
It's been one of the best experiences that I've had. I was a little nervous
at first. Whenever you come into a situation where a team is set and you
have so many great players, but they've welcomed me and it's been awesome.
I just try to do the little things and help out.
On her chance to win a NCAA National Championship and a gold medal
in the same year:
I never really thought about it. My college career alone has been amazing.
To have an opportunity alone to play with this team has been awesome already.
If I'm lucky enough to make the team and win a gold medal, that just caps
it off. I could retire.
TINA THOMPSON, Houston Comets
On her experience with this squad:
It's been great. Any time you've get appointed to an All-Star team consistently,
it's a good feeling. To go out and everyone's a student of the game, so
they have an in-depth understanding of the fundamentals of the game, and
it's a lot easier to play with players like that.
On whether the unselfishness of the team is surprising:
it's always like that. I don't think I've ever experienced a bout
of selfishness with USA Basketball. It's a different type of atmosphere.
We all have a common goal of coming together and preparing to win a gold
medal and when you have that in mind, you do all the little things whenever
possible to make that happen.
On the play of Diana Taurasi:
She's awesome. You watch her play at the college level and you think that
she's a step above the players that she's playing against and you wonder
how she's going to come in and match in the WNBA and excel. There's no
doubt about it, she's definitely a special player. She's come in and blended
with us. She's a chameleon. It's like there's no difference in the level
she's been playing at in college at UConn and here. She just comes in
and makes everything look so easy. I'm just very impressed with her and
she's going to be a professional.
On whether it's unique playing Japan:
I think that the Asian teams are unique teams. They're very agile and
they attack very well and they're very familiar with one another. You
have to slide your feet and rotate on defense because they're really good
at penetrating to the basket and then kicking out and they're great shooters.
They just let it fly and they make them. So we have to buckle down on
defense and try to stop them."