USK Prague Hands USA Women’s National Team 83-77 Loss
Prague, Czech Republic • Oct. 8, 2011
Turnovers plagued the 2011 USA Basketball Women’s National Team (2-2), which was outscored 19-8 and gave up the ball nine times in the third quarter, in a 83-77 loss to 2011 Czech League champion USK Prague on Saturday afternoon in Prague.
Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun) led all scorers with 28 points, Swin Cash (Seattle Storm) scored 13, Brittney Griner (Baylor University) added 11 and Cappie Pondexter (New York Liberty) chipped in 10 points.
“They have an excellent team and I think they played very consistently for the entire 40 minutes,” said Geno Auriemma, 2009-12 USA National Team and University of Connecticut head coach. “They didn’t have ups and downs. We played really well at times and not so well at times. We were more up and down and they played steady the whole game. They’re a very, very good team and they played really, really well. It’s difficult for us. We only have seven players and it’s not always easy.”
The U.S. squad closes out its 2011 European tour in Hungary against 2011 Hungarian Cup and Hungarian Championship winners UNIQA-Euroleasing Sopron on Oct. 9 (1:00 p.m. EDT).
“It’ll be real good to end with a win,” said Griner. “These last two games, we let it slip out of our hands. So, to get a win to close it out would mean a lot.”
USK Prague hit four 3-pointers and got seven points from the line in the first quarter and at the quarter break owned a 29-21 lead.
Trailing 35-29 early in the second period, the USA received five points apiece from Charles and Griner in a 10-2 run and with 3:01 to play before halftime, snared a 39-37 edge. The local squad retook the lead with a mini-run of its own and with 1:30 showing on the clock, was back in front 43-41. However, the USA’s defense held Prague scoreless for the remainder of the stanza, while getting four points from Pondexter and another two from Cash as the red, white and blue headed to the locker room up 47-43.
“It wasn’t just one thing,” added Auriemma. “It was a series of turnovers, the kind that just lead to baskets at the other end. You get so frustrated as a coach, as a player, and you could see it take the life right out of your team when you don’t get a shot at the basket. Missing shots is all part of the game, you’re not going to make every shot. But you should at least have the expectation of getting a good shot every time down the floor. That third quarter, maybe in the first 10 possessions we had eight or 10 turnovers and they capitalized on every single one, it seems.”
USK opened the second half on a 7-0 run that was capped by a Katerina Elhotova steal and layup. The U.S. at 7:06 put up its first of an eventual four field goals of the quarter, scoring on three consecutive possessions to move back in front, 53-50, at 5:50.
That’s when the quarter started to unravel for the Americans.
Following a U.S. turnover, Prague cut the gap to a single point, 53-52. Pondexter was whistled for an intentional foul, trying to stop Elhotova from scoring after another U.S. miscue. Elhotova made one of two from the line to knot the game at 53-apiece. The Czech club got the ball back and netted a three to go up for good, 56-53, with 4:07 to play in the period. From there, the red, white and blue had four more turnovers and closed the third quarter trailing 62-55. The USA’s final basket of the period came from Asjha Jones (Connecticut Sun) with 45 seconds to go, halting the squad’s 5:05 scoring drought.
“Everybody has to play as a team,” said Charles. “Everybody has to play together. There are no excuses as to why we lost. We have to play more together, collectively, and we have to execute better.”
Coughing up the ball twice in their first four possessions of the final quarter, the Americans found themselves down by 12 points, 69-57, with fewer than eight minutes to play. The USA had one more run in the bank and outscored USK Prague 9-2 to cut the deficit to 71-66 with 5:23 to go. However, that was as close as the team would come as USK shook off the USA’s defense and matched the red, white and blue basket for basket to end the game with the win.
“It was one of those things where today we were really just not on the same page,” said Cash. “I think a lot of it was just timing. Sometimes we threw the ball to one spot, thinking that your teammate was going to be there and that just comes with having practice time and playing together. You can’t use that as an excuse, but obviously you look at it as one of the issues of a lot of the turnovers.”
Jones finished with seven points, Renee Montgomery (Connecticut Sun) scored five and Sophia Young (San Antonio Silver Stars) chipped in three points.
Complete game statistics were not available due to a glitch in Prague’s statistics program. However, Eva Viteckova, the Czech Republic’s leading scorer on its 2010 FIBA World Championship silver-medal winning team, paced her club with 18 points, followed by 14 from Elhotova, while two-time Olympic gold medalist DeLisha Milton-Jones scored 11 points.
While the USA’s European tour games are not televised in the U.S., fans can get in-game updates via USA Basketball’s Facebook and Twitter accounts at facebook.com/usabasketball and twitter.com/usabasketball, respectively.
Doug Bruno (DePaul University), Jennifer Gillom, who will also serve as an assistant coach for the 2011 USA Pan American Games Team, are assisting Auriemma and the USA National Team during its 2011 European tour.
Four-time defending Olympic gold medalists, the U.S. will look to capture a fifth straight gold medal and extend its 33-game Olympic winning streak at the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London. The Olympic basketball competition will be held July 28-Aug. 12 in the Olympic Park Basketball Arena and North Greenwich Arena. Four countries have claimed spots in the eventual 12-nation field, including host country Great Britain; the United States, which earned its berth by virtue of earning the gold medal at the 2010 FIBA World Championship; China, winner of the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship; and Russia, winner of the 2011 EuroBasket. Three additional teams will earn spots this year by claiming gold at the remaining two zone qualifying tournaments, FIBA Africa and FIBA Oceania, while the final five teams will earn their spots at the 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament (June 21-July 1 at a site TBD).