U.S. Women Nullify New Zealand 99-47 In 2004 Olympic Opener
August 14, 2004 Athens, Greece
Swin Cash (Detroit Shock) made her Olympic debut by scoring a game high 19 points to lead the U.S. Women's Olympic Team (1-0) past New Zealand (0-1) 99-47 on Saturday afternoon in Athens, Greece. The rout, which was the USA's fourth largest margin of victory in its Olympic history, saw five different players score in double digits as the U.S. upped its Olympic winning streak to 18 games.
The United States continues Olympic play against the Czech Republic, 2003 European Championship silver medalists, on Aug. 16 at 2:30 p.m. (all times local).
"After the first five minutes, I thought we played extremely well," said USA head coach Van Chancellor of the Houston Comets. "We started to moved the ball well, and shot well as a team. We still need to work on our turnovers. Overall I'm pleased with our opening game, considering the fact that we got home from Opening Ceremonies at 3:00 a.m. and played at 2:30 p.m. I'm very happy.
"I thought New Zealand played really, really well. They did a great job with their coaching, we were just bigger and stronger. Number 6 (Angela Marino), what a shooter. They played as well as they could play. Their coach has done a great job of getting them ready for this."
The U.S. had three turnovers and missed its only attempt, while the Tall
Ferns took full advantage with an unexpected 7-0 run to start the game.
Chancellor called a time out to regroup at 8:11. Upon returning to the
"I was not happy with (my starters)," said Chancellor. "However, the good thing about USA Basketball is that when you're not happy with your first five, you have another five to go to. When they went back in, the first group played better."
Hoping for a spark, Chancellor called on his bench and sent in Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Swin Cash (Detroit Shock), Yolanda Griffith (Sacramento Monarchs), Shannon Johnson (San Antonio Silver Stars) and Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury). With 4:32 remaining in the period Cash tied it up and at 3:53 Griffith hit the back end of a pair of charity tries to give the USA an 11-10 edge, its first of the game. New Zealand knotted the score at 11-11 after Donna Loffhagen made one of two at 3:31, but Taurasi launched a 3-pointer to put the red, white and blue on top for good, 14-11, at 3:19. Taurasi's three sparked a 12-0 run, capped by her second trey of the game, and the Americans were off and running, holding a 23-11 upper hand at 2:02. By the game's first buzzer the USA led 28-13 and had virtually squashed any hopes of an upset by the Kiwis.
Utilizing an 18-6 run to open the second quarter, the U.S. held a commanding 46-20 advantage at the 5:37 mark. By halftime the game was in the bag, 63-24. Easing up in the third, outscoring New Zealand 16-15 during that span, the United States closed the game strong, winning the fourth 20-8.
"It makes you better," said Thompson after being asked about today's margin of victory. "It doesn't necessarily make you more confident unless you play a perfect game. There are a lot of things out there that we could have improved upon. We turned the ball over quite a bit and, in the beginning, we weren't rebounding as well as we planned. Against a better team, that could be a problem. But, being that it was our first game, it was a good showing. But, we want to get better as we move on."
In addition to Cash's 19 points, the U.S. was aided by 14 from Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets), Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks) notched 13, Taurasi finished with 12 and Thompson scored 11. Additionally, Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever) had four steals, six points and eight rebounds, while Leslie grabbed a team best nine boards.
Marino was her squad's only scorer in double digits with 13 points.
"We were pleased with the win," said Leslie. "Obviously it was handedly won. But we started out a little slow, a little nervous being the first time out here on the floor. But I thought we pulled it together and once we got our first field goal we were able to get to our press and that really helped. Our defense really helped ignite our offense."
The U.S. overpowered New Zealand in nearly every statistical category, the only close stat was the turnovers as the USA had 27 and the Kiwis had 29. The Americans outrebounded their opponents 58-28, shot 48.7 (37-76 FGs) percent from the field and limited New Zealand to just 21.3 percent (13-61 FGs). The USA's strong defensive effort was credited with 18 steals.
In today's other Group B action, China (1-0) took South Korea (0-1) 71-54, while the Czech Republic takes on Spain at 10:15 p.m. In Group A Australia (1-0) collected an 85-73 victory over Nigeria (0-1) and Brazil upended Japan with a record-breaking score of 128-62. The 128 points is the most scored by a team in Olympic basketball history (1976: Japan 121, Canada 76) and the 66-point margin of victory tied the Olympic record (1980-Soviet Union 119, Italy 53). Host Greece will meet Russia in tonight's 8:00 p.m. game.
The USA's largest margin of victory was a 60-point (107-47) rout of Zaire in the 1996 Olympics. The 1992 U.S. squad posted wins by 56 points (111-55) against Czechoslovakia and 55 points (114-59) against Spain.
The U.S. was without the services of Katie Smith (Minnesota Lynx) who has a contusion on her right knee.
The USA now owns a 35-3 overall record (.921 winning percentage) in Olympic competition and has won a record four golds, one silver and one bronze medal in the six previous Olympic basketball competitions in which the U.S. competed. The United States, which earned the silver medal at the inaugural Olympic women's basketball tournament in 1976, earned its first gold at the 84 Games in Los Angeles, collected gold again in Seoul in 88, and captured back-to-back golds with unblemished 8-0 records in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.