USA Battles Australia For 83-75 Win, Earns No. 1 Seed In Quarterfinals
Sept. 29, 2010 • Ostrava, Czech Republic
Led by 24 points from Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) the USA Basketball Women's World Championship Team (6-0) remained undefeated and earned an 83-75 win after fending off a second-half surge from Australia (5-1) to wrap up the second round of the 2010 FIBA World Championship on Wednesday night in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
With the victory, the USA is the No. 1 seed out of Group E and will face South Korea (3-3), the No. 4 seed out of Group F, in the medal round quarterfinals on Friday, Oct. 1 (time TBD) in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic. All of the USA's games will air live on NBA TV, and fans can also watch live streaming of all FIBA World Championship games at www.FIBATV.com.
"Diana's a great competitor more than anything else," said USA and University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma. "As good a basketball player as she is, and as skilled at basketball as she is, she's an unbelievable competitor. Games like today are what defines great players when you're playing great teams. Some players play great a lot of nights, but Diana plays great usually against the best teams. Australia is the defending World Champions, and I knew they would bring out the best in Diana. Her performance tonight didn't surprise me one bit."
"The USA also received double-digit scoring from Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky), who was 6-of-7 from the field for 15 points to go with her six rebounds, and Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun), who finished with 14 points.
With the USA leading by as many as 24 points in the second period and by 15 points at the start of the fourth quarter, Australia twice cut the USA's lead to nine points in the last 2:26 of the game and closed the gap to eight with a 3-pointer at 54.0 seconds remaining that brought the game to its 83-75 final.
"I think it was surprising," Auriemma said. "The first half, the first quarter especially, I thought we came out and played great and did a lot of really, really good things offensively and defensively. Played with a lot of confidence, and I thought the second half was more like what I thought the whole game would be like - very, very physical, very difficult for either team to get great shots."
The USA was aggressive from the start, particularly in the paint. In addition to 11 first period points from Fowles and seven from Charles on the offensive end, Candice Dupree (Phoenix Mercury), Charles and Fowles were responsible for drawing a combined eight Aussie fouls in the first quarter, helping to put Australian stars Lauren Jackson and Elizabeth Cambage in foul trouble with two apiece before the first intermission. Meanwhile, an 8-0 run to end the period helped the USA improve a three-point advantage, 21-18 at 1:51, to a 29-18 lead to end the first stanza.
The U.S. scoring spree stretched into the second period as the USA reeled off 18 unanswered points overall, and the Americans led 39-18 after Jackson was left open for a 3-pointer at 7:40 to interrupt the onslaught. Penny Taylor added two more points for Australia before the USA responded. Scoring on four consecutive possessions, the U.S. led by its largest margin of the game, 47-23, when Sue Bird (Seattle Storm) stole the ball and found Swin Cash (Seattle Storm) for two of the USA's 13 fast-break points at 5:20. Four points from Cambage, Australia's leading scorer with 18 points, and four from Tully Bevilaqua helped Australia outscore the USA 10-4 to head to the halftime locker room with the USA up by 18 points, 51-33.
"As a team I think we started off very well, got the ball moving, knocking down a couple easy shots and utilizing what we do well," Fowles said.
The USA struggled to start the second half, shooting 2-of-7 from the field and committing five turnovers in fewer than five minutes, and the momentum swung from one side to the other before it evened out. Five points from Jackson helped Australia come within 11 points, 55-44, at 5:07, however, Bird and Taurasi combined for 10 points in the next 1:41, including two Taurasi 3-pointers, to put the USA back up 65-46 at 3:26. The teams were nearly even for the remainder of the period, heading into the final 10 minutes with the USA holding onto a 15-point margin, 72-57.
The USA was whistled for nine fouls in the third quarter alone, giving Australia seven points from the charity stripe, and 28 fouls overall, a tournament-high for the team thus far.
The teams traded scores to start the fourth period, and the scoreboard read 77-61 when Dupree scored an offensive rebound at 7:38. Australia refused to quit and put up six unanswered points to come within 10 points, 77-67, when Auriemma called a timeout at 3:43. Taurasi scored out of the timeout, but Cambage converted a three-point play on the next possession to cut the lead to nine, 79-70 at 2:26.
From there, a bucket from Charles was answered by two points from Australia, which called a timeout when Taurasi was fouled at 1:07. Taurasi sank her two free throws to give the USA back a double-digit lead, 83-72, and Australia saw its comeback chances slip away as the clock ticked down. Kristi Harrower put the last points on the board for the Aussies with a 3-pointer at 54.4 seconds. Both teams missed their next shot attempts, and Bird held the ball on the perimeter as the horn sounded to end the game with the USA victorious, 83-75.
"They're a great team," Cash said. "They're going to make runs, and they made a few runs. We weren't being as successful in the backcourt. They got a few offensive rebounds. Overall, I was really happy with our efforts. You're not going to keep a team like that down forever. They're going to make runs on you, but the way we responded tells the story of the game."
The No. 2 seed out of Group E, Australia next will face host Czech
Republic (4-2), which earned the No. 3 seed out of Group F after it topped Brazil
Group F's No. 1 seed is Russia (6-0) after it beat out Spain (5-1) 76-67 today in Brno. Russia will face Belarus (3-3), the No. 4 seed from Group E, which advanced to the medal round in its inaugural World Championship with a 74-70 win against Greece (2-4); while No. 2 seeded Spain will take on No. 3 seeded France (4-2), which sank a basket at the buzzer to top Canada (1-5) 49-47. The USA's next opponent South Korea earned its spot in the quarterfinals after it edged past Japan (1-5) 65-64.
"I don't know that South Korea will be an easy matchup for us because their style of play and our style of play is just so different," Auriemma said. "We'll worry about them tomorrow. Today we were worried about Australia. Tomorrow we'll worry about South Korea, and then we'll go from there."
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.
The bottom two teams from each second round group, including Brazil, Canada, Greece and Japan, will play out for 9th-12th places on Oct. 1 and Oct. 2.
In today's 13th and 15th place games contested in Karlovy Vary, China (2-3) finished in 13th place with an 86-60 win over Argentina (1-4) and Mali (0-4) pulled out a 69-67 win over Senegal (0-4) for 15th place.
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).