2004 USA Women Get First Taste Of Competition In Havana With 73-37 Win

February 24, 2004  •  Havana, Cuba  •  Box Score  •  Photo Gallery

Pee Wee gets ready to run past her Cuban defender

In its first outing in training for Athens, the 2004 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team (1-0), behind 19 points from Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks), took advantage of ice cold shooting by Cuba (0-1) to earn a 73-37 victory on Tuesday night in Havana, Cuba. Further, in her USA Basketball debut, USA team hopeful Swin Cash (Detroit Shock) checked in for 12 points and seven rebounds.

"We've been together for only five practices and our defense was really good, our rebounding was excellent," said USA and Houston Comets head coach Van Chancellor. "After five practices this is about where I thought we'd be offensively, we're going to struggle with that a little bit. But overall I was really pleased with their effort tonight."

"The Cuban team has a lot of very athletic players," said Tina Thompson (Houston Comets), who notched 11 points, seven rebounds and eight steals. "Number 11 (Yamilet Martinez), number eight (Yuliseni Soria) their point guard, they stand out as leaders on that team. I don't think we're going to look ahead expecting to win the next two games though. We're going to take one game at a time because Cuba has a very tough team."

The United States set the tone early. Behind seven points from Shannon Johnson (San Antonio Silver Stars), and a steal each from Johnson, Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets) and Thompson, the USA stormed out to a 16-0 lead with just over three minutes expired in the game. Soria put her squad on the board at 6:30 in the first quarter. She then sunk a pair from the charity stripe and had a breakaway layup which pulled Cuba back within 10 points, 16-6, with 5:49 left in the quarter.

By 14:52 Cuba had closed to 17-9, but that was a short-lived single-digit deficit. Sue Bird (Seattle Storm) found Swoopes in back-to-back USA possessions to spur an 11-2 run that would end the quarter with the U.S. holding a solid 28-11 advantage. Playing with her University of Connecticut classmate Cash, Bird threaded the needle to find Cash inside, capping the run with 14 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

After Cuba scored the first five points of the second quarter the USA got eight points from Leslie as it rocketed out to another 11-2 run which virtually put the game away, 39-18, with 1:07 to go before halftime. As the buzzer sounded the teams to their locker rooms for the break, the U.S. was up 44-21.

The second half was more of the same as the United States surged ahead 56-27 at the end of three and outscored Cuba 10-17 in the fourth quarter for the eventual victory.

The U.S., which shot a scorching 68.0 percent from the field in the first half (17-25 FGs), closed the night shooting 53.8 percent from the floor (28-52 FGs), while its defense held Cuba to a frigid 21.2 percent from the floor
(14-66 FGs) and just 6.7 percent (1-15 3pt FGs) from beyond the arc.

Tonight's contest was the first of a three-game exhibition series against the Cuba National Team at the Coliseo De La Ciudad Deportiva in Havana Feb. 24-26. The USA and Cuba continue play Feb. 25 at 8:45 p.m. (all times Eastern) and the USA concludes the series with a 7:00 p.m. tip-off on Feb. 26.

USA Basketball announced that the 2004 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team will prepare for the 2004 Athens Olympics with three separate training sessions. In addition to the Feb. 19-27 training and competition, the U.S. will compete in Europe March 18-28 and April 2-13 in the United States. Each training camp will feature available core group members as well as other selected players who will compete for one of the USA Senior National Team's final three roster positions. The Olympics will be held August 13-29.

The U.S. squad is competing with just 11 players on the Cuba trip. DeLisha Milton-Jones (Los Angeles Sparks) tore the ACL in her right knee on Feb. 22 and did not travel with the squad.

Additional 2004 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Quotes

On what he expected against Cuba tonight: When I came here, I didn't know what to expect. Playing in another country, you just come in and try to play the best you can. That's why I was so proud of the team. When you're on the road and play good defense, you have a shot at winning the game and we did that.

On whether he thinks the USA will easily take the next two games: I've been involved in basketball for a long time and I know that a new day makes for a new game. Just because you have success today doesn't mean you'll have success like that tomorrow. You have to play the games.

On the play of the hopefuls: The four young players played really well, Cheryl Ford rebounded the ball really well, Ruth Riley was very aggressive, Swin Cash guarded everyone on their team really well and Nikki Teasley passed the ball well."

On how Cuba has been thus far: I've found the people here in Cuba to be really friendly and really nice to our team. When we came on the court they clapped for us, I was impressed. Everything here has been great, the arena's great, everything has been really fine.

SWIN CASH, Detroit Shock
On her first international game: It was really exciting. I think I was a little too excited at times, but overall as a team we played really hard. It was an honor to be playing with some of the veteran players and getting pointers from them. On not only my game but everything that's been going on. It was amazing because you're not representing just your team, these are the players you go against in the WNBA, you're representing one team with one goal and that's to win a gold medal. It's an unbelievable feeling and I never thought that I'd feel that way coming into this, but I'm really honored to even be here.

TINA THOMPSON, Houston Comets
With everyone coming from different teams, is it hard to learn to play together? It's going to take time. We've only trained together for three or four days and we're all from different teams. This trip and the trips to come are the process through which we'll learn to play better as a team.



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