USA Women Tested By Poland, Pass With Flying Colors 81-62

– Veteran Sheryl Swoopes, Newcomer Tangela Smith Combine For 38 Points–

March 20, 2004  •  Starogard Gdanski, Poland  •  Box Score

Shannon Johnson finished with a team high five assists and added four points in the USA's 81-62 win over Poland. It was game one in the USA's six game European Tour.

The 2004 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team continued its training and competition with an 81-62 victory over Poland in Starogard Gdanski, Poland, Saturday afternoon. In a game that was closer than the score would indicate, two-time Olympic gold medalist Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets) scored 18 of her game high 20 points in the first half, while USA team hopeful Tangela Smith's (Sacramento Monarchs) 18 points came in the second half of her first USA Senior National Team appearance.

"I thought this was a very impressive game for us," said USA and Houston Comets head coach Van Chancellor, who is being assisted on the sidelines by Anne Donovan (Seattle Storm). "Our veteran players got us the lead and our younger players went in there and kept the lead for us. I was really proud of that. I thought overall, this was a great game for us. This is why we come over here, this is tremendous preparation. They played a great international style of basketball, where everybody can shoot, they're passing and cutting to the ball. So it was good for us to get this kind of game."

"Without Lisa (Leslie), I felt that I needed to step up a little bit and my teammates got the ball to me when I was open so I could score," said Swoopes. "But it was not only that, I think we got done what we needed to do both offensively and defensively. Going up against Cuba, they had some good athletes, but I think this was a better competition for us. Better for us to judge where we are, what else we need to work on to improve. And having four new players come in who haven't had the opportunity to practice with us much, and get the job done, I think overall it was a great test for us. It was a tough game for us, but it showed us where we are."

Winning the opening tip, Poland went on to be the first to put points on the board at 8:42. The U.S., which added newcomers Tari Phillips (New York Liberty) Tangela Smith and Michelle Snow (Houston Comets) to its European Tour roster, nailed a trio of threes to jump to a 9-2 lead at 7:04. But the Americans were unable to shake the Poles early on and with 3:10 to go in the first quarter the US was up 13-11. Behind four points from Snow, the US pulled ahead 21-11 before the first period ended with the United States up 21-13.

Poland jumped out on the US to open the second quarter and knotted the score at 21 apiece, thanks in part to perfect 4-of-4 shooting from the line as San Antonio Silver Stars' 7-2 center Margo Dydek netted a traditional three-point play and Edyta Koryzna a not-so-traditional one after being fouled from beyond the arc. While the United States never trailed after being down 2-0 to start the contest, Poland kept it close and with 4:30 to go before halftime, trailed 29-27.

Cue the Sheryl Swoopes Show. She had nine points on the offensive side and a block on the other end of the court to punctuate her defensive efforts as the US sprinted out on a 17-2 run to close the half up by 17 points, 46-29. During the run Katie Smith (Minnesota Lynx), who played in Poland for a year and a half and received a loud welcome during introductions, contributed four points in the run.

Never giving up, Poland chipped away at the gap, outscoring the USA 25-16 in the third to close the quarter trailing 62-54.

The fourth quarter was almost all Tangela Smith. She scored eight of the USA's first nine points as Poland was held to a field goal and the USA found its lead cushioned 71-56 at 4:22. Following a 6-2 run by Poland, Tangela Smith posted the red, white and blue's final eight points of the game, four of which resulted from two steals, and her final layup came after grabbing an offensive rebound.

In addition to Swoopes' 20 and Tangela Smith's 18 points, the USA received 11 points from Tina Thompson (Houston Comets), who grabbed a team best seven rebounds, Katie Smith scored nine points and Snow celebrated her birthday by adding nine more. Shannon Johnson (San Antonio Silver Stars) and Sue Bird (Seattle Storm) passed off for five and four assists, respectively.

Agnieska Bibrzycka paced Poland with 19 points, while Dydek notched 15 points, five rebounds and a game high five blocked shots.

After shooting a sizzling 51.3 percent (20-39 FGs) in the first half, the US closed the game shooting 45.1 percent (37-82 FGs), while holding Poland to just 38.9 percent (21-54 FGs) of its shots from the floor. However, Poland received 15 points on a perfect night from the line, while the US hit three of its four tries from the charity stripe. The USA's defensive intensity resulted in 23 Polish turnovers off of 11 US steals, while only committing 14 turnovers on the other end of the court. The Americans also dominated on the glass, 42-24.

The United States continues play on March 21 against top professional club team Lotos VBW Clima, which advanced to the April 16-18 2004 EuroLeague Final Four, at 4:00 p.m. (all times local / six hours ahead of EST) in Gdynia, Poland. Traveling to Brno, Czech Republic, the Americans will take on 2003 European Championship silver medalist Czech Republic on March 23 and 24, with both games slated to begin at 5:00 p.m. The US will face another 2004 Final Four advancing team, MiZo Pecsi VSK in Pecs, Hungary, on March 22 at 6:00 p.m., before capping its European Tour against Hungary in Budapest on March 23 at 5:00 p.m.

Opening its spring training with a sweep of a three-game series versus Cuba in Havana Feb. 24-26, the USA team will face a demanding European tour March 19-28 that sees the US compete six times against five different top European professional and national teams. Following its European Tour, the USA will take a short break before gathering April 2-13 for a previously announced four-game domestic tour that will see the US compete in New Orleans, La. (April 3), Denver (April 9), Lubbock, Texas (April 12) and Houston (April 13). Upon the conclusion of its April training, the US team members will break for the WNBA season and reconvene on Aug. 3 to complete their pre-Olympic training at sites to be announced.

The US squad is competing in Europe without its All-World center Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks), who had a prior commitment; DeLisha Milton-Jones (Los Angeles Sparks), who tore the ACL in her right knee on Feb. 22; and Dawn Staley (Charlotte Sting), who is the head coach at 2004 NCAA Tournament competitor Temple University.

Additional Quotes:

KATIE SMITH, Minnesota Lynx
On playing in Poland again:
Oh, it was fun getting out there today. The fans were great and it was good going up against some of my old teammates (from Lotos VBW Clima, who are also on Poland's team). But I'm waiting to see how it goes tomorrow, will the Lotos fans still cheer for me when I'm playing against them? (laughing) It really has been great being back here though. Like I've said before, once you play here they treat you like family.

TANGELA SMITH, Sacramento Monarchs
On tonight's game:
Individually, I tried to go out there, help the team and contribute any way I can. I just wanted to go out there and play hard, and that's what I did. But overall, it was a physical game. We got out, ran with the ball and played great defense, that's what got us the win.

Were you surprised at how strong you played with this group, having had less than three practices (she and Tari Phillips arrived in Poland in time for the last half hour of the first practice) with them?
Yes, but everybody's been helping me with the plays so that's been pretty good. There were times where Pee Wee (Shannon Johnson) or Sue (Bird) would tell me where to go, but I'm kind of a quick learner so it was cool.

You haven't played for USA Basketball since the 1997 R. William Jones Cup, what did it feel like to get out there with the USA across your chest again?
It felt really great. Like you said, I haven't played in a long time but I loved it. I love representing my country, it's a great experience for me, so I'm happy to be here.

MICHELLE SNOW, Houston Comets
How did it feel out there in the USA Basketball uniform again?
This is an honor, I feel blessed that I have an opportunity like this. I just want to use it to the best of my ability, make the most of it. It's been an enjoyable trip so far.

On the game:
It's always great to have good competition like we had today, especially going up against Margo (Dydek). Anytime you can go up against somebody as tall as she is and as athletic as she is, you get to see where you're at in your game. So it was challenging and luckily I get to face her again tomorrow.

TINA THOMPSON, Houston Comets
On Poland giving the USA a tough game:
I think it was to be expected, Poland was only a game out of qualifying for the Olympics. We knew coming into this that it was going to be pretty competitive game. They gave us a pretty good fight. It was tough for us through three quarters and we pulled it out in the fourth.

On playing with this team after only three practices together:
It's always interesting. Other than in 1996, I don't think we've had a true national team in a sense that we practice together and play together for a long period of time leading up to a competition. Since then, it's always been a ‘get together, put everything together as quick as possible' process. But considering that, considering that we haven't been able to play with each other for a long period of time, I think we played well.






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