USA Women Cruise To Second Cuban Victory, 97-51

February 25, 2004  •  Havana, Cuba  •  Box Score  •  Photo Gallery

Much like the first game against the Cubans last night, the 2004 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team (2-0) ran away with a 97-51 victory over Cuba (0-2) on Wednesday night in Havana. The USA's team effort was paced in the lopsided victory by Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks), who scored 18 of her eventual 22 points in the first half alone. Tonight's contest was the second 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 conclude play Feb. 26 at 7:00 p.m. (EST).

"I thought we played even better tonight than we did last night," said USA and Houston Comets head coach Van Chancellor, who is now 16-0 as a USA Basketball head coach. "I thought our offense was much better and all 11 of our players played really well. We're trying to keep working on our game. Get our offense better, get our defense better, just keep getting better and better every night.

"I'm amazed at hard Cuba fights, they just keep on playing hard no matter what the score is. But they really missed number 11 (Yamilet Martinez). She's a really great player and that hurt their team tonight."

"Our team does a really good job of getting me the ball inside," said Leslie. "I'm posting up strong, running the floor. They have really good post players, but they haven't double-teamed me yet. One-on-one has been good inside for me. Tina (Thompson) and I were able to do the high-low. We've been able to do that very well since college, and when we play together we read each other very well. So there were times when she kicked it out to me or I'd pass it to her. It was good team chemistry tonight."

After winning the opening tip-off, Leslie got the U.S. started off with a layup at 9:52 and by the 6:17 mark, the game was knotted 8-8. After missed shots on both ends, Leslie received a pass from Shannon Johnson (San Antonio Silver Stars) and nailed a 3-pointer at 5:23 to give the United States an 11-8 lead, one it would never relinquish. In contrast to their shooting the previous night, the Cubans kept it tight by shooting 3-of-5 from the field to open the game.

While the U.S. never again trailed, the game stayed close, thanks to defensive intensidy on both ends and with 10 seconds to go in the first period, Cuba had pulled to within seven, 28-21. After a USA turnover Cuba had a chance to cut the gap. However, bad communication by Cuba on its inbounds play, and a good defensive read by Johnson, led to a Johnson steal. She took a few steps, launched an off-balanced 3-pointer at the buzzer and the USA closed the first quarter ahead 31-21.

Going to the outside to start the second quarter, Tina Thompson (Houston Comets) hit nothing but net on
3-pointer from beyond the NBA mark just eight seconds into the period. That set the tone for the remainder of the half and with 5:50 showing on the clock, the USA had pulled away, 41-21. While the Cubans' defensive pressure remained intense, they never again seriously challenged and by halftime the United States had the game in its pocket, 68-30.

By the end of 30 minutes, the United States was ahead 77-38 and cruised through the fourth for the win.

In a balanced scoring attack that saw every player score no less than four points apiece, and in addition to Leslie's 22 points, the United States' offensive firepower was bolstered by 13 points from Thompson, Swin Cash (Detroit Shock) scored 12 and Nikki Teasley (Los Angeles Sparks) shot a perfect 4-of-4 from the field to finish with 10 points. Ruth Riley (Detroit Shock) led the squad on the glass with seven rebounds, while Johnson dished out six assists.

Cuba, which was without the play of its center Yamilet Martinez (#11), was led by Licet Castillo's 15 points, four rebounds and four assists.

For the second time in as many nights, the U.S. women out-shot the Cubans, making 58.3 percent (35-60 FGs) of their shots, as compared to Cuba's 34.5 percent (20-58 FGs). The United States also held a strong rebounding advantage, 44-24, and forced 19 turnovers on 12 steals.

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

SUE BIRD, Seattle Storm
On playing with Swin Cash again, especially since it seems as if they know where each other is on the court at all times:
It's great to play with Swin again. We did play four years together and in that time not just us, but our entire team had such great chemistry. So to have that feeling back, I probably haven't felt that since college. So to be able to play with her again, I know her game really well, she knows mine equally as well. So to play together again is a lot of fun.

CHERYL FORD, Detroit Shock
What's your overall opinion of this team?
We have a great group of girls, everybody is playing hard and I think we're going to be okay.

How was your day in Cuba today?
It was good. It was hot, but it's good. I enjoyed it. We went on a little sightseeing tour and I really enjoyed it.

What's your overall impression of the Cuban team?
They're a very good team. They're very physical and they move the ball well. They're very good.

LISA LESLIE, Los Angeles Sparks
Has the team chemistry been picking up?
I think so. The starting five is playing well together and it comes more from our defense. Tonight Cuba came out really hot, they were scoring well, but I thought we did a good job defensively. Forcing them to take shots over us. Offensively, we had some really good offensive plays. Shannon (Johnson) did a really good job of getting us into our offense and we were able to move the ball around and find the open player.

NIKKI TEASLEY, Los Angeles Sparks
On tonight's game and being perfect from the field:
I didn't even notice that. I was just feeding off of what the other team was giving me. When they went into a zone I found some open spots, my teammates got it to me and I knocked it down.

On Cuba's tenacious play throughout the game:
They're a fighting team. They never give up and I give my hat off to them for not giving up from the very beginning. We jumped on them in the first half, but they stayed with it. I see them doing well in the long run.




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