U.S. Women Cancel Czechs 80-61

August 16, 2004  • Athens, Greece

Tamika Catchings powers her way past a Czech defender.

The U.S. Women's Olympic Team (2-0) utilized a 36-7 run over the second and third quarters to blow the game open against the Czech Republic (0-2) and finished with an 80-61 victory on Monday afternoon in Athens. Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks) led the way with a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Tina Thompson (Houston Comets) aided in the attack with 12 points and Yolanda Griffith (Sacramento Monarchs) scored 10.

The United States continues Olympic play against South Korea (0-2) on Aug. 18 at 2:30 p.m. (all times local). The USA network will televise the USA women's basketball action in the United States beginning at 8:00 a.m. EDT.

"I thought this was a great test for us tonight," said USA head coach Van Chancellor of the Houston Comets. "We got behind, they played really, really well. They have a great player who is not here. They did some great things offensively to us. I told our team in the first half, ‘just hang on.' Somewhere in there they had to cool off, we couldn't stop them. I'm proud of our team for coming back and finding a way to win. We used our pressure, our depth and that's our strength."

Trailing 13-12 with 5:35 to play in the first quarter, the Americans allowed the Czechs eight unanswered points and by the 1:38 mark trailed 21-12. That was the Czech Republic's largest lead of the game.

Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) and Thompson were perfect from the line on the USA's next two possessions as the American women attempted to stage a comeback. Griffith collected one of her four steals and Thompson converted to close out the first quarter's scoring with a layup and at the end of 10 minutes the Europeans' lead had dwindled to 21-18.

Griffith and Thompson each scored to open the second quarter as the U.S. regained the lead for the first time since the opening minute, 22-21. But the Czechs had an answer for just about everything the U.S. ran and with 6:09 to go before halftime the Czechs were again on top, 30-26.

"Their shots just fell. But we didn't panic," said Griffith. "We knew we had to establish ourselves on the inside and the outside and that's what we did. Lisa (Leslie) was hot inside, Tina Thompson had a great game. When we made substitutions, we made an impact. We have players coming off the bench who know our roles. We went in and did our part, got a couple of steals, some defensive stops and tried to dominate as much as possible."

The USA's depth and pressure defense took over from there. The American women clamped down and began their game-securing run. Tallying her first points of the game, Swin Cash (Detroit Shock) got the party started and Leslie followed with a 3-point play that put the United States up for good, 31-30. The 14-0 run continued as the U.S. jumped ahead 40-30 with 3:26 to go before the half. Zuzana Klimesova, who was coached at Vanderbilt University (Tenn.) by 1992 U.S. Olympic assistant coach Jim Foster, scored five points, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer, while Leslie put in another two and at halftime the United States was up 42-35.

"I thought in the first half that Swin Cash was the difference for us tonight," added Chancellor. "We could not stop them. Her stats are good, she was 4-for-7 and had six rebounds. They were bigger than us out on the wings, they gave us so many problems. We can put her in and she can guard the three and that's invaluable, to have a 6-3 player who can guard a three. I thought she made the difference for us defensively."

Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever) opened up the second half with a 3-pointer as the U.S. picked up right where it left off. By the 7:05 mark the red, white and blue was on top 51-35. At 4:35 the commanding 36-7 run was capped by a Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets) 3-pointer, leaving the United States in complete control 58-37.

The Czech Republic cut it to 65-50 by the end of the third quarter, but the U.S. put the nail in the coffin after scoring nine consecutive points (74-50) to open the final period and coasted in for its second 2004 Olympic win.

Cash helped the U.S. with eight points and six rebounds, while Swoopes finished with seven points and four steals and team captain Dawn Staley (Charlotte Sting) passed off four assists.

Klimesova tallied a game high 18 points, while Eva Viteckova had 14 for the Czechs.

Rebounding has become a strength of this squad and the U.S. once again held a definitive 43-22 advantage. Shooting nearly 50 percent (49.2, 32-65 FGs), the United States iced the Czechs into connecting on just 34.8 percent (23-66 FGs), including a frigid 28.6 percent (6-21 3pt FGs) from afar. Again, the USA's worst stat of the afternoon came in the turnover column as the team registered 20, compared to 14 by the Europeans.

In today's other Group B action New Zealand (1-1) collected an 81-73 win over South Korea (0-2), while Spain (2-0) beat China (1-1) 75-67. In Group A, Japan (1-1) edged Nigeria (0-2). Brazil (1-0) takes on host Greece (0-1) at 8:00 p.m., while Australia (1-0) and Russia (1-0) do battle at 10:15 p.m.

The U.S. was again without the services of Katie Smith (Minnesota Lynx) who has a contusion on her right knee.

The USA now owns a 36-3 overall record (.923 winning percentage) in Olympic competition and has won a record four golds, one silver and one bronze medal in the six previous Olympic basketball competitions in which the U.S. competed. The United States, which earned the silver medal at the inaugural Olympic women's basketball tournament in 1976, earned its first gold at the ‘84 Games in Los Angeles, collected gold again in Seoul in ‘88, and captured back-to-back golds with unblemished 8-0 records in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.

 




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