USA Fights Off France For 81-60 Triumph, Remains Undefeated
Sept. 25 • Ostrava, Czech Republic
The USA Basketball Women’s World Championship Team (3-0) got off to a slow start, but rebounded to fight off France (2-1) and take an 81-60 victory to close preliminary round play of the 2010 FIBA World Championship on Saturday afternoon in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
With the win, the U.S. advances to the second round as the No. 1 seed out of Group B, while France advances as the No. 2 seed. Following a day off the Americans will remain in Ostrava for second round action and will play the top three teams out of Group A, including No. 3 seed Canada (1-2) on Sept. 25 (times TBD). They will then meet No. 2 seed Belarus (2-1) on Sept. 26 and Group A’s top seed Australia (3-0) on Sept. 27.
USA tri-captain Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) paced the attack with 15 points and six rebounds, while Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun) and Candice Dupree (Phoenix Mercury) came off the bench to score 10 points apiece. Additionally, tri-captain Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), who shot a perfect 4-of-4 from the field, Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream) and Maya Moore (University of Connecticut) each contributed nine points. Moore came close to a double-double after grabbing a game-best eight rebounds.
“I thought the first half, the first 10 minutes especially, were difficult for both teams to make any shots,” said USA and University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma. “Usually when you play pretty good defense and hold the other team to three or four or five points, you would think that you would come down and get maybe 10, 12, 14, but it was difficult for both teams in that first 10 minutes. As we settled into a rhythm we played really well. Our defense was much better in the second half. Our second group that came in did a great job in the third quarter. We have a young team, but we have some talented players and we have depth. I think that helped us again tonight.”
|USA head coach Geno Auriemma’s contribution to the Czech charity ABC is now up to $500. He pledged $50 per U.S. made 3-pointer during the World Championship and the USA has made 10 so far, including the three netted tonight.|
The first quarter was choppy. Neither team was able to get into a flow, and after nearly eight minutes of play only 11 points were on the board with France leading 8-3. A pair of Taurasi jumpers, the first with 2:01 to go, bookended a 10-2 American run to close the first quarter with the USA up 13-10, and the U.S. never against trailed.
After starting the first quarter shooting 1-of-5 from the field and committing four turnovers in the first six minutes, the U.S. finished the period 5-of-11 (.455) from the field with seven turnovers, while France’s first-quarter shooting was an ice-cold 3-of-15.
“I would just say that we started out a little slow,” said McCoughtry. “We just had to settle down and run our plays better, because once we start running our offense, passing and cutting, we get easy layups. We just have to come out with a little better start in the future.”
The USA began to slowly increase its lead, and at 5:47 the team pulled away by nine, 26-17. The French never capitulated and continued to fight back, however, never allowing the Americans more than a 10-point cushion, and by halftime the U.S. lead was whittled down to 36-29.
“We were a little stagnant on offense, the ball was not moving, we were not getting to the spots we needed to, and that’s what happens,” stated Taurasi. “But we found a way to turn that around in the next three quarters.”
Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky) converted on a traditional 3-point play to get the second half started and spur a 7-2 run as the U.S. went up 43-31. France fought to stay within 10 points, and after a 3-pointer at 3:35, the USA’s lead was just that, 51-41. McCoughtry was fouled on a put-back 37 seconds later, converted her and-one and followed that with another basket for five of the USA’s points in a 7-0 spurt that put the United States up 58-41 with 2:01 to play in the period.
France got to within 10 points again, 58-48, with 26 seconds before the buzzer sounded, but a Moore 3-pointer sparked a 9-2 run that extended into the fourth quarter as the U.S. expanded its lead to 17 points, 67-50. France never recovered from that blow as the USA closed out the game by outscoring France 14-8 for the win.
“We knew this was going to be a tough game going into it,” commented Dupree. ‘The game plan was to try and hunker down on defense, and I thought we did a good job of that. At some points, we were over-rotating on help-side defense. Offensively, we need to move the ball more. We tried to play one-on-one in spots. Overall, it was a good game.”
France’s lone double-figure scorer was Miyem Nwal-Endene, who put up 15 points.
The USA’s nearly relentless defense held France to just 36.1 percent (22-61 FGs) shooting from the field and 27.8 percent (5-18 3pt FGs) from 3-point, while its offense fired off 55.6 percent (30-54 FGs) from the field and 42.9 percent (3-7 3pt FGs) from beyond the arc. The American women also ceaselessly dominated on the glass, earning a 41-25 rebounding margin.
“Coach put an emphasis on defense, keying in on certain things we wanted to do and how we were going to defend certain things, and I thought we executed our game plan well,” said Charles.
Despite coughing up 18 turnovers, France was only able to convert those miscues for five points, while the U.S. capitalized on France’s 15 turnovers with 20 points. The American women also had 11 second-chance points and 12 from the fast break, while scoring a total of 40 in the paint as compared to France’s eight.
In today’s other Group B preliminary round action, Senegal (0-2) will face Greece (0-2) in the final game of the night. Also in Ostrava, Group A saw Australia earn a 91-68 victory over China (0-3) and Belarus held back Canada 61-49. Meanwhile in Brno, South Korea (2-1) had a close 68-66 win over Mali (0-3) and Spain (3-0) downed Brazil (1-2) 69-57; while in Group D Russia (3-0) beat Argentina (0-3) 77-59 and host Czech Republic (1-1) takes on Japan (1-1) in Brno’s late game.
The medal round will be played in Karlovy Vary, with the quarterfinals scheduled for Oct. 1, the semifinals on Oct. 2 and the medal games played on Oct. 3. All of the USA games, as well as the gold medal game regardless of who is playing, will air live on NBA TV, and fans can also watch live streaming of all FIBA World Championship games at www.FIBATV.com.
Assisting Auriemma and the USA National Team through the 2010 FIBA World Championship are DePaul University head coach Doug Bruno, Los Angeles Sparks head coach Jennifer Gillom and Atlanta Dream head coach / general manager Marynell Meadors.
Not only is a gold medal at stake, but the gold medalists will earn a berth to the 2012 Olympic Games.
Should the U.S. not finish with the gold medal in ‘10, it would have two additional chances to qualify for the Olympics: the 2011 FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament (dates and site TBD) and 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament (dates and site TBD).