USA Women's National Team Cancels Czechs 85-69

March 23, 2004  • Brno, Czech Republic  •  Box Score
Defensive Efforts Pay Off
The U.S. relied on strong defense from team hopefuls like Deanna Nolan (L) and Michelle Snow

Powered by 30 points from Tina Thompson (Houston Comets), the 2004 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team (6-0) stopped a late surge by the Czech Republic and came away with a hard fought 85-69 victory on Tuesday evening in Brno, Czech Republic. Thompson combined with Shannon Johnson (San Antonio Silver Stars), who had 17 points and six assists, for 43.5 percent of the USA's scoring output.

"The Czech team is very good offensively and they were very hard for us to guard," said USA and Houston Comets head coach Van Chancellor, who is being assisted on the sidelines by Anne Donovan (Seattle Storm). "I know they are missing some players, but the ones they have here are very good. But Tina Thompson and Shannon Johnson played extremely well for the USA and I'm very pleased with how well they played against such a good team. I thought this team and the Russian National Team (in the 2002 World Championship) are both very, very difficult to defend, very difficult to stop from scoring."

"They're a really good team, they're a lot bigger than we are," said Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever). "They came out and really attacked us offensively and defensively. Defensively I think they had a pretty good game plan. The two lapses they had (on defense) were that they couldn't stop Pee Wee (Shannon Johnson) and they couldn't stop Tina (Thompson)."

Playing against 2003 European Championship silver medalists, also without the services of its top player and two others from the European Championship, the United States won every quarter. However, it was not easy sailing for the red, white and blue.

In a see-saw of a first quarter that saw nine lead changes and a pair of knotted scores, Katie Smith (Minnesota Lynx) netted a 3-pointer at the buzzer to put an end to the first period with the U.S. on top 22-21. The U.S. never again trailed.

In the second quarter the U.S. went up 29-23 at 5:36, and 38-29 at 1:57 on a coast-to-coast bucket by Shannon Johnson (San Antonio Silver Stars), but could not shake the Czechs and at halftime the U.S. held a 40-33 lead.

While the U.S. never again trailed after the end of the first quarter, the Czechs tied the game at 42-42 with 6:49 to go in the third quarter after kicking-off the second half with a 9-2 push. However, the U.S. answered back with a 14-2 run that was bookended by a 3-pointer each from Thompson and USA hopeful and newcomer Deanna Nolan (Detroit Shock) that ended with the United States on top 56-44 at 3:33. But again the Czechs answered and cut the gap to eight, 60-52, at the end of three.

"Late in the fourt quarter we were able to get the ball to Tina Thompson," said Chancellor. "And I thought her scoring, with about five minutes to go, was the difference in the game."

Opening the fourth quarter with a pair of free throws, the Czechs then turned to Michaela Uhrova, who nailed a trio of treys on three of their next four possessions to narrow the gap to 68-63 with 6:19 to play. Thompson answered with a three of her own, and scored a total of 10 straight points for the Americans, to spur a 17-4 USA drive. The run was capped by a Katie Smith 3-pointer with 38 seconds to go and the game safely away 85-67. Additionally, after a Czech field goal at 4:35 (75-67), the United States held its opponents scoreless until the last second of the game when Uhrova got the contest's final basket.

While Johnson and Thompson were the only two players in double digits for the U.S., Katie Smith finished with nine points and Nolan had seven.

The Czechs were paced by 17 points from Eva Viteckova, Uhrova finished with 11 and Iva Vecerova scored 10.

The United States shot 51.5 percent (34-66 FGs) from the field, while holding the Czechs to 41.8 percent (23-55), and edged the hosts 25-24 in the rebounding column. In what was a very tight and physical contest for the defense, there were 32 whistles blown, 20 against the U.S. which send the Czechs to the line for 20 tries.

The United States continues play March 24 in Brno in the second game against the Czech Republic at 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. Further, the U.S. team is playing with 10 on its roster after Tari Phillips (New York Liberty) fractured the fourth metacarpal in her left hand and did not compete against Lotos VBW Clima, nor will she play in the USA's final European Tour games, while Nikki Teasley (Los Angeles Sparks), who was slated to join the squad in the Czech Republic, was unable to travel to Europe due to personal matters.

Additional Quotes:

USA head coach VAN CHANCELLOR, Houston Comets
On the crowd:
One of the things that impressed me was their fans, they were so knowledgeable of the game. They all understood the game of basketball and really enjoyed these two teams playing. This was pure basketball and I like that.

TAMIKA CATCHINGS, Indiana Fever
On playing the Czech Republic again tomorrow night:
One of the things we have to do is obviously staying out of foul trouble. Myself and a few other people got in trouble in the first half and early in the second half. So we have to come out better defensively and adapt to how the refs are calling the game. I think that's going to really help us overall as a team. From there, offensively, still attacking them. Defensively with post players hedging, they couldn't really run their offense with us doing that.

On the team's performance overall, considering all the ‘newcomers:'
I'm definitely happy to pull out a win against a team as experienced as they are playing together. And for all of us, some of us came in last week and Deanna (Nolan) coming in yesterday, coming out and being effective. I think it's great from both a coaching and players standpoint. Still being able to have confidence in your teammates no matter what the circumstances are is great.

SHANNON JOHNSON, San Antonio Silver Stars
General thoughts on the game:
I thought our coaches did a great job of knowing exactly who their players are. The coaches knew what their players could do, not so much their plays and stuff. The Czech team is a very good team. We know that they don't have all of their players, some of them are playing on other (professional) teams right now. But I felt that tonight was good for us because we got the ball in people's hands in order for us to score. That's one good thing about this team, everybody can step up and do different things for this team, it's not just one person. We worked as a team tonight and put a lot of things together, we saw a lot of things we can exploit later.

The good thing about it is that in some games you're able to get to the basket and in other games you're not able to do so much. But tonight we were able to get to the basket and find people and the good thing about it is that we have people who can knock their shots down. I thought we played as a very good team tonight, that was a team win. It doesn't matter who scored the most, the most important thing is that we can come together and see what different options we have throughout the game.

On playing the Czech Republic again tomorrow night:
We know that it's going to be a whole different team tomorrow. We know we're going to have to go out there and do different things. They're probably watching film tonight to see exactly what they didn't do right, what they need to do to adjust. I think we might see more zone from them tomorrow because we didn't see any zone from them today. So we have to be ready for anything tomorrow. But the good thing about it is that our coaching staff does a great job getting us ready for each game.

DEANNA NOLAN, Detroit Shock
On tonight's game, coming in and playing with this team without a practice under her belt:
It was pretty good, considering it's my first day on the court here. I didn't know the plays, it's different when you see them on paper from when you actually get out there and run them. But it was pretty good for me. They came out and played us tough. We overcame that and got the win.

Have the rest of the players been helping you with the plays?
Yes they have. They've been telling me things, asking me what plays I know and don't know. Everybody's been very helpful for me.

What was it like getting out there for the first time in a USA Basketball uniform?
It was exciting, knowing you're out there representing your country, playing against other countries. Knowing that there's a target on your chest, so everyone wants to go out and try to beat you. But I had a lot of fun tonight.

TINA THOMPSON, Houston Comets
How difficult was it playing the Czechs with out a traditional scouting report, not having seen them before?
I think that was the most difficult part. We're not very familiar with their personell. It took us a few minutes to get familiar, get into the flow of the game. It always takes a little while when you don't have a scouting report, you don't have an idea of what the team's going to run, and you have to get to know your player throughout the game. Around the second quarter we picked it up a little, found our bearings. They came out in the third quarter strong and made a run, which is to be expected. But we stayed relaxed, kept our poise and pulled it out in the end. It was a good win for us.

On playing the Czech Republic again tomorrow night:
It's going to be tough. They're at home and they're going to come back and be a lot more familiar with us. And that's definitely going to make a difference. Just as they now have knowledge of us, we have more knowledge of their team as well. It's going to be a good game.




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