Czechs Bounced By USA Women's National Team 73-46

March 24, 2004  • Brno, Czech Republic  •  Box Score

Relying on a suffocating defense and a balanced offensive attack that saw Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever), Shannon Johnson (San Antonio Silver Stars) and Tina Thompson (Houston Comets) each contribute 12 points, while Sue Bird (Seattle Storm) added 11 points, the U.S. rolled to a 73-46 in over the Czech Republic Wednesday evening. The win improved the USA's spring training mark to 7-0 and was the team's fourth during its European tour and its second in as many nights against the Czech Republic.
Making 5-of-7 shots and finishing with 12 points, Tamika Catchings also added seven rebounds, one assist, and two steals in 23 minutes of game action Wednesday as the USA rolled to a convincing 73-46 win.

"The player I was really pleased with tonight was Tamika Catchings, she played really well," said USA and Houston Comets head coach Van Chancellor, who is being assisted on the sidelines by Anne Donovan (Seattle Storm). "I was really, really pleasantly shocked with our defensive performance tonight. To give up only 46 points after playing our fourth game in five days in all kinds of environments, and against the same team we struggled with last night ... this was one of those 10-man efforts. Everybody played well, it's hard to single out anybody in particular, and I was just really pleased with our team tonight."

In a turn around from last night's close contest, the Czech Republic, which hit a chilling 29.0 percent (9-31 FGs) in the first half, missed its first five shots as the U.S. sprinted out to a 10-0 start. Thompson hit a turnaround jumper in the lane to get the scoring started at 9:23 and the USA was off and running. During the first 2:25 of the contest, and in addition to Thompson's jumper, the US received a pair of threes from Johnson, while Catchings also contributed a layup. The Czechs finally got on the board at 6:38, but by 4:10 the USA's lead was 18-6. Not allowing the Americans to run away with the game quite yet, the Czechs outscored the USA 9-6 to close out the quarter trailing 24-15.

Deanna Nolan (Detroit Shock) kicked off the second quarter with a jumper and a pair of free throws to spark a 17-4 scoring drive that saw an additional six players contribute in the scoring column. Catchings ended the spurt with a layup and with 2:45 to play the red, white and blue had the game well in hand, 41-19 and by the halftime buzzer the scoreboard read 41-22.

"Tonight we shared the ball again, but defensively we did some things differently that we didn't do yesterday," said Johnson. "We got to their passing lanes, got some early steals. As far as our offense, we did the same thing we did yesterday in terms of getting the ball, sharing the ball with everyone. The good thing about it was that we started knocking some shots down and put them away early. Our defense was better today. We wanted to go out and press them more and that was very effective for us."

Leading by 17, 47-30, the American women scored eight unanswered points in the final 3:27 of the third period to up the ante to 55-30. In keeping with the night's theme of a shared attack that kept the defense guessing, four players contributed in the run, including Catchings, Johnson, Ruth Riley (Detroit Shock) and Tangela Smith (Sacramento Monarchs) - all in that order.

Tangela Smith scored on back to back possessions to put the US up 59-30, 1:16 into the fourth quarter. With the game well in hand, the U.S. had a defensive lapse that allowed the Czechs to go on a 12-4 drive and with 4:35 to play they had closed to 63-42. But the lead was insurmountable as the United States proved too much to handle and closed the contest with a 9-4 run for the overwhelming victory.

In addition to the four players in double digits, the USA's effort was aided by a game high eight rebounds from Swin Cash (Detroit Shock), and Tangela Smith was credited with three blocked shots.

Jana Vesela came off the bench to pace her the Czechs with 12 points.

The Czechs held the U.S., averaging 51.5 percent from the field in seven games, to its lowest shooting percentage of the tour at 43.6 percent (24-55 FGs). However, the USA's defense held the Czechs to a frigid 27.3 percent (18-66 FGs), the second lowest of any US opponent in seven games. The United States also won the battle of the boards, 35-23.

After collecting four wins, two each in Poland and the Czech Republic, the U.S. will face 2004 Euroleague Final Four team, MiZo Pecsi VSK, in Pecs, Hungary, on March 27 at 6:00 p.m. (all times local, six hours ahead of EST). The USA will close its 2004 European Tour on March 28 with a 5:00 p.m. game against the Hungarian National Team in Budapest.

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 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; Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets), who played the two games in Poland before returning home for a prior commitment; and Dawn Staley (Charlotte Sting), who is the head coach at 2004 NCAA Tournament competitor Temple University. Further, the US 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 difference in the two games against the Czech Republic:
We made a defensive change that turned out really, really well for us. It really helped us, we played much better defense tonight. Last night we went into the game just ice, ice cold. And then tonight we had a little more of an idea of what they were going to do and we were able to defend them much better.

SUE BIRD, Seattle Storm
On the difference between last night's game against the Czech Republic and tonight's game:
Tonight we really jumped on them. If you give a team a chance to gain confidence it can help them in a game. They may be playing over their heads, but if they have that confidence they might play better. But tonight our starters did a really good job of getting on them, jumping out early, getting a big lead on them. I think that took the wind out of them. Also, when you play a team twice, you get to know about them a little bit more. We knew their plays today, we knew how we were going to guard them, we knew their personnel, so that was a big help for us.

SHANNON JOHNSON, San Antonio Silver Stars
The Czechs didn't shoot well tonight, was that part of your defensive goal - disrupting their shots?
We tried to get in their passing lanes a little more, I felt like we gave them what they wanted yesterday. I'm sure they wanted to play better tonight than they did, but we went out there and played the way we needed to play.

How is the team chemistry with this team?
The good thing about it is that the players who are definitely going to the Olympics are able to play with the younger group of players and have been able to be effective out there together. When we started out, we set the tone as far as how we need to play and the rest of the ladies stuck with it. The good thing is that this team is the fact that the five of us are playing strong, then we have players who come off the bench who are playing just as strong. So you never know a starter from a reserve. That's a good thing about this team, we're very strong right now.

RUTH RILEY, Detroit Shock
General thoughts on the game:
Anytime you're playing on the road and back to back, it's going to be tough. Especially in another country. But our veteran players did a great job at the beginning of the game, getting things going and setting the tone for the game from the start.

TANGELA SMITH, Sacramento Monarchs
General thoughts on the game:
We came out strong tonight and everybody, as a whole, played together as a team. We all got together and had some good chemistry, we had strong plays the whole game. I think that's what kept us going. There was a lot of chemistry tonight and played really strong. We had a few spurts where we relaxed, but overall we played well together as a team.

On her play tonight:
I felt pretty good. I wanted to come in there and give it my all and do what I could to help the team. I just tried to play defense really well, because I don't think I've been doing that well on defense, so I went out there and tried to play hard. Coach has been telling everybody all week to just go out there and play the game and that's what I did tonight. I didn't think too much, I just played the game.



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