U.S. Women - South Korea
August 18, 2004 Athens, Greece
The 2004 U.S. Women's Olympic Team (3-0) outscored South Korea (0-3) 29-7 in the third period to pull away for an eventual 80-57 victory in Athens on Wednesday night. The Americans, who shot just 1-of-11 from beyond the arc in the first half, went to its dependable inside game as Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks) and Tina Thompson (Houston Comets) were virtually unstoppable, scoring 25 and 18 points, respectively.
The United States continues Olympic play against also unbeaten Spain (2-0) on Aug. 20 at 2:30 p.m. (all times local). Spain plays New Zealand (1-1) tonight at 10:15 p.m. The USA network will televise the USA versus Spain women's basketball action in the United States beginning at 8:00 a.m. EDT.
"At halftime we went in to the locker room and told them that we had to pick it up defensively," said USA and Houston Comets head coach Van Chancellor. "Number two, we were 1-of-11 from the three-ball, we were 12-of-19 from inside, so let's throw the ball inside. Let's make Korea guard us inside and we did. We did two things: we picked up our full court defensive pressure, we combined that with tremendous inside play. We quit shooting the ball from outside, just pounded it inside. That's what we should have been doing in the first half. In the first half we had a horrible coach who didn't do a very good job of getting us ready to play, but in the second half he had a much better half."
South Korea relied on outside shooting to keep the game close and after hitting 3-of-4 from afar to open the contest led 13-11 at 4:20. Leslie, who was perfect on her first six shots, tied the game with a layup at 4:07. That started a 9-2 run as the Americans took the lead 20-15 with 1:40 left. However, the Koreans launched another pair of threes and snuck in a layup before the buzzer to gain a 23-20 edge.
Leslie scored seven of the USA's nine unanswered points with less than three minutes elapsed in the second, which put the U.S. up 29-23 at 7:07. But Korea wouldn't go away, and with 2:42 before the half, the USA's edge was down to one point, 33-32.
"There's no reason for us to be shooting 3-pointers," said Leslie. "There was no way they can guard us inside. Even against the zone, the middle was wide open so we were able to get the ball inside. Even when I got doubled, Tina (Thompson) cut down the middle or Yolanda (Griffith). We were just effective inside so we didn't need to settle for any 3-pointers tonight. But we do have some effective 3-point shooters and when that time comes I believe we can knock those down."
Beginning a 14-0 spurt that would continue into the third quarter, and eventually turn into a 25-2 scoring spree, the half wound down with the United States ahead 39-32. Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever) and Thompson each notched six points during the 14-0 run. By the 4:48 mark in the third quarter, the U.S. had the game well in hand, 58-34.
"Sometimes in that first quarter it's hard to get going for whatever reason," said Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury). "You have to feel your opponent out. We lacked the aggressiveness that we showed most of the game and coach said that we need that from the get-go. From the jump ball. That defensive aggressiveness. Offensively, it's the same. It's something we can easily change and fix so we're not worried about it."
In all, the U.S. outscored South Korea by an overwhelming 29-7 margin in the third and held the opposing squad to just one 3-pointer during that time. In contrast, Korea made 6-of-13 from beyond the arc in the first half and finished the game shooting 9-of-20 from 3-point.
Chancellor rested his starting five in the fourth quarter as the U.S. closed with the 80-57 victory.
Leslie and Thompson tied for game high rebounding honors with seven apiece, while Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets), who scored eight points, was credited with four steals. Leslie's 25 points ranks eighth among all-time U.S. Olympians' single game outputs. Leslie, who owns the USA's record with 35 points against Japan in 1996, also tied the top blocked shot output with three.
Katie Smith (Minnesota Lynx), who missed the first two games due to a contusion on her right knee, started the second quarter for her first minutes of the 2004 Olympic competition.
Mi Sun Lee scored 16 points, Eun Jung Park added 14 and Yeong Ok Kim
pitched in 13 for South Korea.
In today's other Group B action the Czech Republic (1-2) collected its first victory with a 98-83 final over China (1-2). In Group A, Australia (3-0) ran past Japan (1-2) 97-78, host Greece (1-2) got its first win with an 83-68 win over Nigeria (0-3), while Brazil (2-0) takes on Russia (1-1) in the 8:00 p.m. contest.
With the victory over the South Koreans, the U.S. upped its Olympic winning streak to 20 games, dating back to the 1992 bronze medal contest. The USA now owns a 37-3 overall record (.925 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.