U.S. Women Crack China Early, Roll To Meal Round With 100-62 Win
August 22, 2004 Athens, Greece
Just like the proverbial bull running through a china shop, the 2004 U.S. Women's Olympic Team remained perfect and won its fifth game in as many days with a 100-62 victory over 2003 Asian Championship gold medalist China (1-4) on Sunday night in Athens. The USA's shattering of China was aided by a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds from Yolanda Griffith (Sacramento Monarchs), while the USA's offensive clinic was further bolstered by a team high 19 points from Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), 17 from Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks) and Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets) added 13 points.
The U.S., following two days off, will face host Greece (2-3), the fourth seed in Group A on Aug. 25 in Olympic medal round quarterfinals play. The game will be an interesting match-up of sorts between Temple University (Pa.) head coach and USA guard Dawn Staley (Charlotte Sting) against former Temple forward Athena Christoforaki of the Greek team. The winner of that game will advance to the Aug. 27 semifinals and the gold medal will be contested Aug. 28. Game times for the quarterfinals have not yet been announced.
" I'd like to compliment China for playing very hard today," said USA and Houston Comets head coach Van Chancellor, who now owns a 35-0 record as a USA Basketball head coach. "The USA just had more players and bigger players. I thought we did a very good job today of pressuring them. Jumping out we were able to switch, they had great ball movement. I was really pleased because it's hard to hold this team to 62 points, so I was pleased with our defense...our rebounding edge, we were just a strong team."
Getting off to a slow start the United States allowed China to hold a 5-3 edge to open the contest. Tina Thompson (Houston Comets) then scored four points in an 8-2 U.S. run as the USA took a 13-7 lead with five minutes expired on the clock. China hit the game's next two buckets to pull to 13-11 at 3:59. However, with the help of a pair of threes from Taurasi and four points coming from Griffith, the USA outscored China 14-2 to close out the first quarter with a 27-13 cushion.
"Today I felt good," said Taurasi. "Sometimes when you are in a game, it comes to you and it just kind of came to me. I was playing a little more aggressive, but for the most part I just try to play. It was a tough game to play knowing it really didn't decide anything standing wise. But we still wanted to come out and play well. Every game is important from here."
China never seriously threatened after the opening minutes. The Asians, never able to cut the USA's lead into single digits, saw the Americans expand their lead to 52-32 at the half, 75-45 at the end of three periods and as many as 39 points (94-55) before the final buzzer sounded.
The U.S. had its best shooting night of the Olympics, connecting on a sizzling 51.8 percent (44-84 FGs) from the field and held China to just 35.8 percent (19-53 FGs). The U.S. again were dominant on the glass and owned a 46-22 rebounding advantage. In fact, through five games, the United States has outrebounded foes by 22.0 rpg. (45.8 rpg. to 23.4 rpg.). In collecting 22 steals on the night, the Americans forced 19 turnovers. They also scored a whopping 74 points in the paint and 20 points on the fast break.
"We are like a well-oiled machine," said Sue Bird (Seattle Storm). "We keep going. We haven't played with each other all that much, prior to the Olympics. It's only natural that the more you play together, the better you are going to get and the more comfortable you are going to be with each other. We are really clicking."
The biggest question of the night was not how much the margin of victory would be, but what the status of Katie Smith (Minnesota Lynx) will be. Checking into the game at 5:59 in the first quarter, Smith played two minutes before suffering a right knee sprain. An MRI will be conducted on Aug. 23 and Smith will be reevaluated at that time.
"That would be a blow to our basketball team (if she were unable to play in the medal round)," said Chancellor. "She helped us win a gold medal in China (at the 2002 World Championship). She has a tremendous amount of experience. She knows everything that I want to do. She's been with me through China, through Cuba, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, through everywhere, every training camp I've ever had since day one. She really, really has a tremendous understanding of where I'd like to get the basketball to Lisa Leslie and therefore that would be a blow to us."
In today's other Group B action the Czech Republic (3-2) defeated New Zealand (2-3) 74-57 and Spain (4-1) edged South Korea (0-5) 64-61. In Group A Australia (5-0) remained undefeated with an 84-66 win over Brazil (3-2), Russia (4-1) routed Nigeria (0-5) 93-58 and Greece (2-3) advanced to the quarterfinals with a close 93-91 game over Japan (1-4).
"I really dread playing Greece," commented Chancellor. "To play them in front of about 15,000-20,000 people, at home, with everybody in the crowd pulling for them. To me we've got a tough bracket. Play them if we win this game we play the winner of Russia - Czech (Republic). So boy, is that tough. I hate to just play a team here at home, I really do. We got a few horses don't misunderstand me now, but I really hate to play them."
The three other quarterfinals contests include Russia against the Czech Republic, Spain will face Brazil and Australia meets New Zealand. The winners will advance to the Aug. 27 semifinals.
Nigeria and South Korea will play for 11th place on Aug. 24 at 9:00 a.m., followed by the China versus Japan 9th place game at 11:15 a.m.
With the victory over China, the U.S. upped its Olympic winning streak
to 22 games, dating back to the 1992 bronze medal contest. The USA now
owns a 39-3 overall record (.929 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.