USA Basketball Women’s National Team Closes Out European Tour On High Note, Eclipses UE Sopron 73-63
Sopron, Hungary • Oct. 9, 2011
A pair of Olympic gold medalists, Swin Cash (Seattle Storm) and Cappie Pondexter (New York Liberty), scored 14 points apiece to lead the 2011 USA Basketball Women’s National Team (3-2) to a 73-63 victory over UNIQA-Euroleasing Sopron in Sopron, Hungary, on Sunday night.
All seven American women scored in a key third-quarter surge that saw the USA, which went into the locker room tied 41-41, outpace the hosts 21-9 and take a 62-50 lead heading into the final stanza.
“It was the complete opposite of the way we started (the second half) the other night,” said Geno Auriemma, 2009-12 USA National Team and University of Connecticut head coach. “There was a much better focus on the defensive end to kind of limit what the other team was doing. Because the defensive stops were there, we were then able to convert that into good offense. I think we took them out of their rhythm. They had a really nice flow offensively in the first half. And then, some defensive things that we did really caused them some problems. We had great ball movement in the third quarter and got open shots. It sounds so simple, but that’s basically what it was.”
Also aiding in the effort were Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun) and Sophia Young (San Antonio Silver Stars) with 12 points each, while Renee Montgomery (Connecticut Sun) scored nine and the U.S. received six points apiece from Brittney Griner (Baylor University) and Asjha Jones (Connecticut Sun).
In the first quarter the USA fell behind early and with 2:22 on the clock Sopron held a 22-15 lead. However, Charles scored on back-to-back possessions, Cash hit one from the line and Montgomery converted a layup after picking off a pass in a 7-0 run that evened up the score at 22-all at the end of the first period.
“I was really impressed with their team,” Cash stated. “You could tell they’ve played together for awhile. They were really working their offense and getting the best shots that they wanted.”
The American women again found themselves in the hole early in the second quarter after Sopron scored the first five points of the period. Closing to within a point, 34-33, after a pair of Griner free throws at 4:14, the U.S. again feel back to a five-point deficit, 41-36, with 2:52 to play before halftime. From there, the U.S. defense held the hosts scoreless as Cash converted on a traditional 3-point play and Pondexter made a pair from the charity stripe, and with 9.5 seconds on the clock the score was tied up for the second time of the night, 41-all.
Sopron had the final possession of the half, but a pass inside was swatted out of the middle by Griner. Sopron regained control in time for a final shot, but it was off the mark, Griner grabbed the rebound and the halftime buzzer sounded with the teams even.
“We talked about letting everything go and just play,” reflected Montgomery on the locker room talk during the half. “No matter, we can’t think about the two games we already lost, the two games we won. Right now, we’re in a position where it’s tied. The score is zero-zero and we control the outcome.”
Unlike its previous two games, both of which resulted in losses, the U.S. entered the third quarter with energy, determined not to repeat the same mistakes. With the score tied at 45-45, Montgomery nailed a 3-pointer at 7:26 to take the lead for good, 48-45. Sopron was still within striking distance, 50-49, when Cash got a bucket off a feed from Young. After Sopron missed its next shot, Young scored two points and 25 seconds later, stole the ball, ran the court and made a layup that gave that USA a 56-49 lead with 4:15 to play in the quarter. Both teams had a difficult time finding the bottom of the basket through the remainder of the stanza, but the U.S. managed to outscore the Hungarian squad 6-1 to go up by 12 points, 62-50, at the end of the third.
“The last two games we kind of came out just okay, lackadaisical and not really playing hard,” said Young, who scored four points, dished out a pair of assists and picked off a Sopron pass in the third quarter. “Obviously we learn from our mistakes and we don’t want to keep repeating that kind of mentality going out there in the third quarter. We kind of talked amongst ourselves and said that we need to come out as intense as possible. Coach did a pretty good job of getting us prepared to come out in the third quarter.”
Going up by as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter, 66-51, with 8:44 left in the game, the U.S. held off Sopron for the victory.
In addition to their contributions in the points column, Charles grabbed a game-best nine rebounds, Young had eight and Gringer grabbed six; Pondexter and Young dished out three assists apiece; Montgomery and Young had three steals each; and Griner was credited with a pair of blocked shots.
Olexandra Kurasova and Zsofia Fegyverneky scored 14 and 12 points for their side, respectively.
The USA won the battle of the boards by a 31-27 edge and netted a sizzling 51.7 percent (30-58 FGs) of its tries from the field, while its defense limited Sopron to just 42.4 percent 25-59 FGs).
“Winning makes everything easier,” added Pondexter. “Winning makes everybody happy. Coming off two losses was tough for us, so we definitely needed to close this road trip with a win.”
Doug Bruno (DePaul University), Jennifer Gillom, served as assistant coaches to 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. Seven 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; Russia, winner of the 2011 EuroBasket; Australia, winner of FIBA Oceania; FIBA Americas gold-medal winner Brazil; and Angola, which won the FIBA Africa championship to earn its first Olympic berth. The final five teams will earn their spots at the 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament (June 21-July 1 at a site TBD).