USA Shoots Out Lights Against Lotos VBW Clima With 86-64 Win

– Balanced Scoring Attack Sees Six USA Players Score In Double Digits –

March 21, 2004  • Gdynia, Poland  •  Box Score


Shooting Star
Tina Thompson shoots over her Lotos VBW Clima defender. She finished with 21 points in the 86-64 win.

Not even a power outage in the second quarter could stop the 2004 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team (5-0), led by Tina Thompson's (Houston Comets) 21 points, as it ran away in the fourth quarter to an 86-64 victory over 2004 EuroLeague Final Four competitor Lotos VBW Clima. The game, played in front of a boisterous standing room only crowd on Sunday evening in Gdynia, Poland, saw a total of six U.S. players score in double digits.

"I was really pleased with us tonight," said USA and Houston Comets head coach Van Chancellor, who is being assisted on the sidelines by Anne Donovan (Seattle Storm). "We withstood Pee Wee (Shannon Johnson) in foul trouble, we played a really good team and I thought we played well tonight. It looks like to me we've had everything thrown at us. We have traveled far, brought players out, players in, we've played good teams, we play on the road and the lights go out, the pregame ceremony, all of that. It doesn't look like anything bothers this team. We just play and play together and play hard. Whoever's here, they show up and play."

"I thought it was very competitive," said Thompson. "Both teams came out and played really hard. The first three quarters were very competitive, but at the beginning of the fourth quarter we got an edge on them a little bit and continued to build our lead."

Facing a team with four players who are on the Polish national team (Agnieszka Bibrzycka, Joanna Cuprys, Margo Dydek and Paulina Pawlak), as well as a pair from the United States (Chasity Melvin and Elaine Powell), the U.S. ran out to an 8-2 lead in the first 3:31 of the game. But San Antonio Silver Stars' 7-2 center Margo Dydek scored Lotos' first eight points and at 4:08 the U.S. held a 12-8 lead. Receiving points from four different players, the Americans outscored the Poles 12-8 to close the quarter ahead 24-16.

Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever) tallied the USA's first six points of the second quarter and assisted Thompson on the next bucket as the U.S. launched an 11-5 assault for a 35-23 lead at 6:29. At the 3:47 mark, with the red, white and blue still carrying a double-digit lead, 39-27, the arena's lights dimmed. Whether the 15:26 delay was due to a blown fuse or the USA's hot shooting in the first half (19-33 FGs) is a matter of speculation. Either way, the delay didn't sideline the Americans' offense as they allowed just one Lotos field goal in an 8-4 spurt that ended the half with the USA on top by 16, 47-31.

Lotos came out of the locker room on fire and in just under five minutes, closed to 54-44. Baskets were swapped by both teams until Elaine Powell drove for a layup at 3:11, which cut the USA's lead to single digits, 59-50. The Polish pro squad reduced it to eight points, 63-55, but Sue Bird (Seattle Storm) found Ruth Riley (Detroit Shock) open as the third period expired and the U.S. was up by 10 again, 65-55.

If Lotos VBW Clima had thoughts of an upset, it was short lived. Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets) and Tangela Smith (Sacramento Monarchs) hit back-to-back buckets to open the fourth. After a Lotos layup by Agnieszka Bibrzycka put the score at 69-57, the only field goal for her squad in the fourth quarter, the USA reeled off 10 unanswered points to virtually put the game away 79-57 at 4:58. During the run, Bird hit her two threes of the game, while Riley contributed the remaining four points. The game's final five minutes saw Lotos shoot 7-of-10 from the line as the U.S. closed with its second victory of the European Tour.

Thompson, who shot a perfect 6-of-6 from the charity stripe, had 14 of her eventual 21 points by halftime. The USA's scoring efforts were further bolstered by 12 points apiece from Tangela Smith and Swoopes; Katie Smith (Minnesota Lynx), a former member of the Lotos VBW Clima squad (2001-02, 2002-03), scored 11 points; while Bird and Catchings added 10 each. Tangela Smith grabbed a game high seven rebounds, Bird and Swoopes passed off for five and four assists, respectively, and Katie Smith came up with a team best three steals.

Dydek scored a team high 13 points, Powell had 11 and Melvin tossed in 10 points.

Shooting 54.7 percent (35-64 FGs) on the night, the U.S. scorched the nets in the first half with 57.6 percent (19-33 FGs) of its tries, while Lotos VBW Clima was held to 40.7 percent (22-54 FGs). The USA outrebounded its opponent 32-24. Additionally, despite only being together for four days as a group, the United States passed off for 20 assists on 35 field goals.

Tari Phillips (New York Liberty) fractured the fourth metacarpal in her left hand and did not compete against Lotos VBW Clima. Additionally, she will not play in the USA's final four European Tour games.

Moving to the Czech Republic, the United States continues play March 23 and 24 in Brno against 2003 European Championship silver medalist Czech Republic, with both games slated to begin at 5:00 p.m. (all game times local / six hours ahead of EST). The U.S. will face another 2004 Final Four advancing team, MiZo Pecsi VSK in Pecs, Hungary, on March 27 at 6:00 p.m., before capping its European Tour against Hungary in Budapest on March 28 at 5:00 p.m.

Opening its spring training with a sweep of a three-game series versus Cuba in Havana Feb. 24-26, following its Feb. 19-27 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. squad is competing in Europe without its All-World center Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks), who had a prior commitment; DeLisha Milton (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:

USA head coach VAN CHANCELLOR, Houston Comets
On what he was trying to do against Lotos VBW Clima:
First of all, our number one goal tonight was to guard Margo (Dydek). Then we were trying, to a degree, to stop (Chasity) Melvin and (Agnieszka Bibrzycka). We wanted to try and keep Elaine (Powell) from penetrating to the basket.

Are you where you want to be with the USA team core group members?
Oh yes, ahead of where I want to be with them. First of all, I thought Sue Bird came in and picked us up when Pee Wee (Shannon Johnson) got into foul trouble. Tina Thompson has just been an absolute force for us. Sheryl (Swoopes) has played really, really well for us. Tamika Catchings, Katie Smith, all the players who have made this team have stepped up and carried this team. I really like the way the players who are trying to make this team have played. Some days you make a decision based on the negative, meaning that they're not playing well. But right now the (USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team) Committee's decision is going to be really tough based on a lot of positives.

SUE BIRD, Seattle Storm
On her shooting tonight (4-4, 2-2):
Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't. You just have to keep shooting.

On the game:
I think we played together really well as a team. The more we play together, the better it is for us. Lotos has some good talent with some American players, some Russian players, Margo (Dydek) in there, which is really a challenge. And I think we handled it really well.

What are your goals as you go forward this week?
I think it'll be a challenge for us not to have Lisa (Leslie), DeLisha (Milton) and Dawn (Staley), and now we're losing Sheryl (Swoopes). We're gaining some players like Deanna (Nolan), not so much Nikki (Teasley, who played with the USA in it's recent Cuba series), Tari (Phillips), Tan (Smith), people who haven't really practiced with us. That's a challenge in itself. But our chemistry will be probably be the most important thing for us. Without Lisa and Sheryl and those guys, we're all going to have to step it up a little.

TAMIKA CATCHINGS, Indiana Fever
On tonight's game and the team overall:
I think this went real good, we really came together. Obviously with everything that happened in the game, with the lights going out, playing them back-to-back, we were able to recoup and play really well together. Coach put out a lot of different combinations out there and everybody came out and played.

How has your stay been here in Poland?
It's been fun. Unfortunately we haven't been able to get out and see a lot, it's been kind of like what you see and read about. It's been about what I imagined here and everybody's been great.

What did you think of the crowd tonight?
It was great! They really come out and support their team. The second half I got a headache from all the noise. They come out, support and embrace their team, and I think that's great.

KATIE SMITH, Minnesota Lynx
On playing on her former ‘home court:'
Oh it was fun. As you could tell, for whatever reason, you could tell they still like me (laughs). It was fun to see the fans, see a lot of familiar faces and play against the other team.

Did you know they were going to present you with gifts before the game?
As many presentations that I went through while I was here, and yesterday, I had a feeling. They did that a lot with players who came back, playing on other teams. So I had a feeling. I looked at Margo (Dydek) when they were talking and she (motioned to me), so that's how I knew I was getting something because I don't really know what they were saying.

What was it like going up against some of your former teammates?
It was cool! Margo (Dydek) and Pejak (Joanna ‘The Spider' Cuprys), they've been playing on the Polish national team so I've been going up against them for awhile. But it's pretty easy, that's just the way it is. You play and then we're all going to go out to dinner together later. It's a lot of fun, we joke together. I've experienced how they live and what they're all about and they've all been in the States themselves. It's just fun because we share a lot of stuff together.

On where the team is right now:
I think everybody's done a great job with the additions, the subtractions, people not here, I just think everybody's pretty focused. We go out and play hard, we know we're going to face some tough teams, we know there may be some circumstances that don't make the game as smooth as possible. But everybody's taking advantage of learning, getting used to each other, maybe getting some confidence. I think we've kept on plugging away with whoever's here, I think it's nice that you do have a group like this. But it will be good to have Lisa (Leslie) back and Dawn (Staley) will join us in April. It'll be good to have those guys back in our mix.

TINA THOMPSON, Houston Comets
On the USA's team chemistry at this point:
I don't know if we have a true team chemistry at this point because there's so many different changes that have happened in each trip with different players coming in for evaluation. But the ironic thing is that no matter how many changes we've made, everyone's coming in, learning the plays, playing together, playing hard and kind of working out. I think that's the best thing about having the best players from your country come in and play together. No matter who you bring in or who leaves, although we miss Lisa (Leslie), DeLisha (Milton) and Dawn (Staley) a whole lot, it's working out and that's a great thing.

On the USA's third quarter lapse:
They kind of got comfortable and they got into the way they play their game. They were running and cutting to the basket a lot. So coach Chancellor called a time out and we buckled down defensively. We had a lapse there for a little while. They made shots that they were supposed to, they played their game. They went at us, we had a weakness, but we came back. The latter part of the third quarter and in the beginning of the fourth quarter, we kept them out of the middle. They were driving, Elaine (Powell) especially was getting to the middle a lot and that allowed her to not only get baskets but to get in and pass the ball out to Margo (Dydek).




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