USA National Team Heads To Europe With 74-58 Victory Over WNBA All-Stars

August 5 , 2004  • New York, New York

Stars & Stripes
The USA team, which got together for a photo shoot the day before the game, had fun in the exhibition game against the WNBA All-Stars. (Photo: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE)

The 2004 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team (14-0) picked up right where it left off last April and rolled to a 74-58 victory over a team of WNBA All-Stars on Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall. Played in front of an ESPN nationally televised, the game was a send-off for the team as it readies for Athens. The U.S. did not disappoint its fans as Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever), Yolanda Griffith (Sacramento Monarchs) and Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks) each notched double-doubles.

"We're a better basketball team than we were tonight," said USA and Houston Comets head coach Van Chancellor, whose USA Basketball record now stands at 27-0. "We turned it over so much. We set a record for turnovers in a single game, I think. We had 28 turnovers, I think. Our starters are equal opportunity people, they turned it over 21 times. We got 80 shots, is that unbelievable? Yolanda Griffith, 15 rebounds."

The U.S., which had not practiced together with all 12 members of the team until arriving in New York on Aug. 3, got off to a slow start and with 15:28 to play in the half held a slim 9-8 margin. Chancellor sent in his reserves at 5:12, which listed just one past Olympian (Griffith), and they went to work. Scoring nine unanswered points, the combination Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Swin Cash (Detroit Shock), Griffith, Ruth Riley (Detroit Shock) and Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) put the U.S. up 18-8 at 11:24. The starters returned to the game and continued to pull away and with 6:20 to go before the half the USA National Team was up by 14 points, 28-14. The game was never in doubt after that as the red, white and blue took a 23-point lead, 39-16, with 1:39 to play. However, a pair of turnovers by the U.S. were parlayed into four points by the WNBA team and at the half the U.S. led 39-20.

The WNBA All-Stars managed to outscore the U.S. 38-35 in the second half, but the USA players headed off the stage with the 74-58 victory.

"We have some work," said Griffith, who had not donned a USA uniform since the 2000 Olympic gold medal game. "Actually, this is my second day of practice with the team and first game with the team. I think we have some work to do. We over passed a little bit and we should have took some open shots that we didn't, try to be unselfish. We're going to take tomorrow off, travel to Spain, and get ourselves together basically. Because playing like we played tonight and having those kinds of turnovers won't win a gold medal. We have to not be perfect the first game, but we have to be perfect in order to get the gold medal."

Leslie led all scorers with 15 points to go with her 12 rebounds, while Griffith was the night's high rebounder with 15 and also scored 11 points, and Catchings posted 12 points and 11 rebounds on the night. Tina Thompson (Houston Comets) was the USA's only other player in double digits with 11 points.

Turnovers plagued the United States, which gave up the ball 28 times, while forcing just 18 on the other end. However, the USA held a commanding 62-30 advantage on the glass.

"Right now we need practice, but we knew that when we started," added Chancellor. "We're okay. We have Russia, we have Australia, the Czech Republic, Brazil -- they're awfully good. We're not ready for that. But we have 20 days to get ready. We're going to practice and play and get ready for the games. All we need is some time. Time together, time to play, trying to get us healthy."

The U.S. was without the services of Katie Smith (Minnesota Lynx), who has a contusion on her right knee, and Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets), who has acute tendinitis in her right foot.

Heading to Europe for its final tune-up before Athens, the U.S. will compete in a tournament in Salamanca, Spain, along with 2004 Olympic competitor and host Spain, as well as 2003 European Championship fourth place finisher Poland and fifth place finisher France. After the 5:00 p.m. Poland - Spain game, the USA will take on France at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 8. The consolation game will be played on Aug. 9 at 5:30 p.m., while the championship game follows at 8:00 p.m.

Following the tournament, the United States will remain in Spain and practice on Aug. 10 at 11:00 a.m. before traveling to Athens for two final practices, Aug. 12 at 11:00 a.m. and Aug. 13 at 12:00 p.m. The U.S. will then tip-off it's 2004 Olympic competition against New Zealand at 2:30 p.m. on Aug. 14.

The U.S. capped a successful spring training schedule with an unblemished 13-0 record in its early preparations for Athens. Featuring three separate training sessions, the USA's competition ranged from national and professional club teams to the 2004 WBCA All-Star Team, with games played in six international arenas and four domestic cities. The three camps gave the coaching staff and USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Committee a chance to see 10 U.S. candidates compete alongside the Senior National Team core group members in hope of securing one of the three remaining roster positions.

The United States opened its training with a three-game sweep of host Cuba in Havana Feb. 24-26. Following a two week break, the USA then collected six victories in Europe over top professional and national teams March 20-27. Regrouping in New Orleans at the Final Four, the red, white and blue downed the 2004 WBCA College All-Stars on April 2, before taking a trio of games from Japan in Denver; Lubbock, Texas, and Houston April 9-13.

The USA owns a 34-3 overall record (.919 winning percentage) in Olympic competition and has won a record four golds, one silver and one bronze medal in the six previous Olympic basketball competitions in which the U.S. competed. The United States, which earned the silver medal at the inaugural Olympic women's basketball tournament in 1976, earned its first gold at the ‘84 Games in Los Angeles, collected gold again in Seoul in ‘88, and captured back-to-back golds with unblemished 8-0 records in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.

With the exception of host Greece and the United States, which earned its Olympic qualifying berth by virtue of its 2002 World Championship gold medal finish, teams were required to qualify through zone qualifying tournaments for the 2004 Olympics. Earning the 10 remaining spots among Athens competitors were: Australia (Oceania #1), Brazil (Americas #1), China (Asia #1), Czech Republic (Europe #2), Japan (Asia #2), New Zealand (Oceania #2), Nigeria (Africa #1), Russia (Europe #1), South Korea (Asia #3) and Spain (Europe #3).

The United States, placed in Group B, will open preliminary round play against New Zealand on Aug. 14, face the Czechs on Aug. 16, South Korea on Aug. 18, Spain on Aug. 20 and will close out preliminary round play versus China on Aug. 22. The top four teams from each preliminary round group will advance to the Aug. 25 quarterfinals, with the winners playing in the semifinals on Aug. 27 and the medal games will be contested Aug. 28. Group A consists of Australia, Brazil, Greece, Japan, Nigeria and Russia.




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