Red-Hot USA Basketball Women's National Team Races Past Croatia, 109-55
-- Four Players Reach Double Figures, Led By Sylvia Fowles’ 15 Points --
Istanbul, Turkey • July 21, 2012
Shooting a blistering 70.8 percent (17-24 FGs) from the field in the first quarter, the 2012 USA Basketball Women’s National Team (4-0) ran away early with a 109-55 win over Croatia in exhibition play on Saturday night at Abdi Pekci Arena in Istanbul, Turkey.
Led by 15 points on 6-of-6 shooting from the field from Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky), four players finished in double figures for the USA. Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks) added 14 points and six rebounds, Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx) tallied 12 points and six rebounds and Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun) scored 11 points.
The game was a preview of the USA’s first contest of the 2012 London Olympic Games; with the USA opening its preliminary round play against Croatia at 4:45 p.m. (11:45 a.m. EDT) on July 28.
“It’s a little odd, for us and for them I’m sure, to know we are playing them a week from today, so we wanted to make sure we found out a little bit about them and more importantly, kind of start getting into some kind of flow ourselves,” said Geno Auriemma, USA and University of Connecticut head coach. “Having Sue back really helps an awful lot. It’s fun to watch us when our defense is generating all of our offense for us like it did that first 10 minutes. You score as many points as we did that first quarter, that’s a great sign for us because we have 12 scorers on our team. So, as long as the ball is moving, as long as everybody is on the same page and our defense is the catalyst, we’re obviously capable of being a really, really good team just like we were tonight.”
The USA was back at full strength with the return of Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), who arrived in Istanbul early this morning after returning home to New York on July 15 following the death of her mother’s longtime partner, Dennis Burden.
“In a way, this is kind of my normal routine, being with a team, being around these guys,” Bird said. “It feels real good to get back to that. It was obviously also really good to be home with my family and my mom last week.”
The USA was off and running with a 10-0 run to start the game that included four baskets from four different U.S. players, including a 3-pointer from Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever), who finished with nine points, five rebounds and four steals on her 33rd birthday. Forcing 11 turnovers in the first 10 minutes, the USA raced to its highest scoring stanza of its 2012 exhibition schedule, leading 38-13 at the first break.
The USA’s largest run of the game began with a coast-to-coast layup from Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx) at 2:38 in the first quarter, and it stretched all the way 6:41 in the second period when Croatia scored to end the 19-0 onslaught. By the time Swin Cash (Chicago Sky) scored off of an offensive rebound at 5:54 in the second period, all 12 U.S. players had put points on the board to help the USA take a 62-23 halftime lead.
“It was lot of fun tonight,” Parker said. “It was good team win. I think everybody has fun when everybody touches the ball. We had movement, we were pressing. Defensively, we did a lot better on our screen-and-roll coverage and our rotation, talking and getting out in passing lanes.”
Scoring the first six points of the second half for the USA, Charles became the first USA player to reach double figures at 8:52 after an inside feed from Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), who finished with nine points and five assists in the game. Bird also dished out five assists to go with her eight points, and Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx) added four dimes to help the USA record 23 assists.
Auriemma changed his entire side at 5:03 in the third quarter, helping the USA to continue to push that pace, and an offensive put-back from Asjha Jones (Connecticut Sun) that just beat the third-period buzzer put the Americans ahead by 48 points, 88-40.
The USA, which shot 51.6 percent from the field overall (47-91 FGs) and 90.9 percent from the free throw line (10-11 FTs), went on to outscore Croatia 21-15 in the fourth period to record a 109-55 win – another high for the U.S. squad in 2012.
Moore grabbed a game-high eight rebounds to go with four steals, while Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream) collected six steals to go with her nine points.
Croatia was led by 14 points from Ana Lelas and 13 points from Sandra Mandir. Their side was without the services of its 6-6 center Marija Vrsaljko, who averaged 14.7 ppg. and 5.3 rpg. in the 2012 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, and was married today.
The game was a homecoming of sorts for six U.S. players who have suited up for Turkish basketball clubs, and those six should expect to at least a few some fans in the crowd tomorrow night as the USA women wrap up the team’s exhibition schedule against host Turkey on July 22 at 6:00 p.m. (11:00 a.m. EDT).
Augustus (2009, 2011), Catchings (2010, 2011), Charles (2012), Fowles (2011 and 2012) and Taurasi (2012) have all suited up for Galatasaray, while McCoughtry (2011 and 2012) and Taurasi (2011) played for Fenerbache.
Auriemma is assisted by DePaul University’s Doug Bruno, Jennifer Gillom of the Washington Mystics and Marynell Meadors of the Atlanta Dream.