Not Starving For Offensive Efforts, USA Women Down Hungary 88-64 To Close Out European Tour Undefeated

– Tina Thompson Again Leads The Attack With 21 Points –

March 28, 2004  • Budapest, Hungary •  Box Score
Caution: Deadly To Foes
Tina Thompson, who averaged 20.3 ppg. in Europe, shoots over Hungary's Annamarie Keller

Backed by 21 points from Tina Thompson (Houston Comets) and 19 from reserve Swin Cash (Detroit Shock), the 2004 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team (9-0) put the nail in the coffin in third quarter to close out its 2004 European Tour with an 88-64 victory over the Hungarian National Team in Budapest on Sunday night. The win upped the USA's record to 9-0 overall and 6-0 on the five-city, three-country tour.

"We wanted to establish ourselves in the third quarter because this is a young basketball team and we didn't want them to start thinking they can win," said USA and Houston Comets head coach Van Chancellor, who is being assisted on the sidelines by Anne Donovan (Seattle Storm). "And I thought we did that in the third quarter, we applied more pressure to them defensively and it paid off. Our goal was to play everybody about 20 minutes apiece, and we were able to do that with everyone contributing. I'm very happy with where the team is right now, we're way ahead of schedule. After all we've been through, all the travel and everything we've done in the last week, we got through it and I like where we're at."

Thompson scored 12 points in a first quarter that saw the U.S. run out to a 27-17 lead. An 8-2 spurt started the contest for the Americans and after another five points from Thompson in an 8-4 run, the U.S. found itself leading by 10, 16-6, just over six minutes into the game. By the end of the first quarter the gap was still 10 points, 27-17.

However, the United States, which was playing its sixth game in a fifth city in eight days, allowed Hungary to keep pace in the second quarter and the first half ended with the U.S. on top 43-33. Hungary shot 50.0 percent (17-34 FGs) in the first half overall and from 3-point (4-8 3pt FGs), while the Americans were just under that mark from the field at 48.0 percent (12-25 FGs) and hit a chilling 16.7 percent (1-6 3pt FGs) from beyond the arc.

But the tide was about to turn for the United States.

"Coach (Anne) Donovan told us during halftime that we weren't playing with a lot of energy," said Thompson, who averaged a team high 20.3 ppg. throughout the six-game tour. "Even though we thought that we were, it was something we weren't conscious of, it really was a totally unconscious thing. So in the second half, we came out and picked up our energy in the game and that made a big difference. Especially defensively. A couple times Tamika (Catchings) got into the passing lanes and she stole some balls and got some easy baskets on fast breaks. I definitely think that ignited us."

Shannon Johnson (San Antonio Silver Stars) got the second half rolling with a 3-pointer at 8:57. After a Hungarian field goal at 8:46 the USA reeled off 10 unanswered points in a 23-4 scoring spree that put the game away 69-39 with 13:47 to go in the contest. During the drive, Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever) had three steals and 10 points, while Thompson netted six points. The team overall was credited with six of it's 19 steals for the night during the third quarter. The period ended with Hungary hitting a pair of threes and a layup to go into the fourth quarter trailing 69-49.

The final period saw the red, white and blue cruise in for the victory.

Every USA athlete saw between 17 and 23 minutes of action in a game that, in addition to Cash and Thompson's combined 40 points, saw Catchings score 12, and three other players, Katie Smith (Minnesota Lynx), Tangela Smith (Sacramento Monarchs) and Michelle Snow (Houston Comets) contribute eight points apiece. Snow was the team's high rebounder with eight, while Johnson dished out six assists.

Orsolya Englert and Edit Eordogh scored 16 and 12 points, respectively, for their squad.

Increasing its accuracy in the second half, the United States finished the game shooting 52.9 percent overall (37-70 FGs) and a respectable 50.0 percent (8-16 3pt FGs) from afar, while Hungary's shooting fell in the second half to finish at 42.6 percent (23-54 FGs) from the field and 41.2 percent (7-17 3pt FGs) from 3-point. Winning the battle of the boards 36-26, including 13 offensive rebounds, the USA also had 22 assists on 37 field goals and had 19 steals on 28 of Hungary's turnovers.

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 competed 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; Dawn Staley (Charlotte Sting), who is the head coach at 2004 NCAA Tournament competitor Temple University; and Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets), who played the first two games in Poland but returned to the U.S. for a prior commitment. 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:

SUE BIRD, Seattle Storm
Are you pleased with how the team finished the tour?
Yes. We got to see some really, really incredible cities. We got to experience some foreign countries. And playing together, we did a really good job staying undefeated so you can't go wrong with that. Especially the game two nights ago when we were down in the first quarter, we bounced back from that, which showed a lot of character. So everybody's feeling pretty good about this trip.

How's the team chemistry?
The chemistry is getting better and better, we enjoy being with each other both on and off the court. It's really been an excellent experience.

SWIN CASH, Detroit Shock
Are you pleased with the way you closed out the trip?
I'm very happy. I'm really happy to end this on a positive note. As far as my personal play, I wasn't really down, but I know I wasn't playing to my full potential so it's good to get two good back-to-back games. I know we're going back to the States soon and we'll see what happens there.

On the slow start and third quarter play:
We weren't really sluggish in the first half, but we knew that we weren't playing at the top of our game. In the third quarter the veterans really came out and established the tone. Tina was really going to work, Katie hit some big shots and defensively we really stepped it up. That really turned things around for us.

TAMIKA CATCHINGS, Indiana Pacers
What's the biggest difference between the European and U.S. style of basketball?
I think it's the physicalness compared to how we play in the States from the game overseas. Also, European players can shoot the ball really well. The post players, guards, everybody shoots the ball really well.

And the differences in the stadiums?
Well, in the U.S. they're a lot bigger, but the stadiums here are very good because they pack the house, the fans come and support their teams. They make it rock, it's very loud, so it's been a lot of fun playing in stadiums that are full like this.

Are you pleased with the USA's strong finish?
I am. I am really satisfied. We came out every single game and were focused. Although sometimes it took us a little bit to catch on, but eventually we did and we played really well.

What are your thoughts on the Hungarian Team?
They're a good team, they can shoot the ball really well. Their offense is about dribble, penetrate and kick. They do that and are able to hit the open shots, which is where they're really effective. They're a great team offensively. Defensively they were able to do a couple of things. We came out tonight and gave them a good match.

SHANNON JOHNSON, San Antonio Silver Stars
Are you pleased with the USA's strong finish?
I felt we played consistently throughout the entire tour. We've done a good job of keeping our composure, even the younger girls. It shows how far USA Basketball has come with the younger players playing the way they did. We played strong the entire time, there was one game we let ourselves down, but we came back from that. So I feel that the entire tour was good for this team.

What was your game plan for the second half of tonight's game?
We wanted to go ahead and get up, go out there and play hard. We felt like we didn't have much energy out on the court in the first half. Coach told us to go out there and play with a little more energy and that's what we did, got a couple more steals. Our defensive efforts definitely paid off out there.

RUTH RILEY, Detroit Shock
On tonight's game:
I thought it was a good way to end our trip. We were a little slow in the first half and our starting five did an amazing job at the beginning of the second half of putting us up by 20 and then allowing us to finish out the game.

KATIE SMITH, Minnesota Lynx
How do you feel about where the team is right now?
Even though the core group isn't all here, we played really well. It's been great competition, we've had different officiating, played in hostile arenas, things don't always go our way, but we still bounce back. With no days of practice, it was impressive to see people work together and see people step up and see some of the young kids get out there and do some stuff.

After a bit of a slower start than usual, you all picked it up in the third quarter. What happened at halftime?
Well, obviously it's been a long trip in a lot of different ways. But we just jumped on them. We were comfortable in the first half, but didn't quite put them away and they were still hanging around some. We just turned it up a notch on both ends of the floor in the third quarter. That's something we've been struggling with in the third quarter, winning the third quarter. Today we did that.

TINA THOMPSON, Houston Comets
On the team's chemistry right now:
I think it's unbelievable that we've practiced very little. So that means that everyone has been very focused mentally. Not being able to practice much, but having to come out and play games. All of our games have been back-to-back games and when you don't get much practice and you haven't spent a lot of time together, you're going to have to be very strong mentally. That is a great upside to this team in that we can come together, especially with some players coming in and out, making a lot of changes. The constant thing is that we play at a very high level and that's a good thing for a team to have.




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