U.S. Women Clean Up Greece 102-72, Advance To Medal Semifinals
August 25, 2004 Athens, Greece
Behind a combined 41 points from Shannon Johnson (San Antonio Silver Stars) and Tina Thompson (Houston Comets), the 2004 U.S. Women's Olympic Basketball Team (6-0) overpowered Greece (2-4) 102-72 in a quarterfinal contest on Wednesday afternoon in Athens. The win advances the U.S. to the Aug. 27 medal semifinals where it will face Russia (5-1), which demolished the Czech Republic (3-3) 70-49 this evening.
Played at 2:30 p.m. (all times local unless noted), the USA's semifinal will air in the United States on the USA network at 7:30 a.m. The winner of the USA versus Russia contest will advance to the Aug. 28 gold medal game. The winner of the Spain - Brazil quarterfinal will meet the winner of the Australia - New Zealand quarterfinal match.
"I want to compliment the team from Greece. Offensively they did some great things today," said USA and Houston Comets head coach Van Chancellor, who now owns a 36-0 record as a USA Basketball head coach. "They gave us as many problems on offense for our defense as any team we've played so far, including the games in the 2002 World Championship in China. We could not stop them today, their offense was great.
"I was really pleased with Shannon Johnson, Yolanda Griffith (Sacramento Monarchs) and Tina Thompson. I thought Shannon had a great game for us. It looked like the same old Shannon Johnson I used to know. (Anastasia Kostaki) for them was really good. Really good. We're fortunate for the win and we're looking forward to the next game."
Leading from wire to wire, the United States looked to three different players as it took a 6-0 lead to start the game. Greece finally got on the board thanks to a pair of free throws by Kostaki at 8:29 and by the 6:54 mark the USA's edge was 10-7. Putting together a 9-3 spurt, capped by a 3-pointer from Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) at 5:00, it looked as if Greece would be out of the game early, 19-10.
However, the home team went on its biggest run of the game and knocked the USA's lead to two, 19-17, with 2:33 to go in the first quarter. With four seconds to go in the stanza and the U.S. up 24-19, Taurasi stole the ball, got it to Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets), who was fouled. Swoopes converted on the three-point play, kicking off a 13-0 run that ended with seven straight points from Griffith and with 8:02 to play in the half the Americans owned the game 37-19. Continuing to pull away with the help of Griffith, who notched 11 of her 14 points in the second quarter alone, the red, white and blue went up 55-34 at halftime.
Outscoring Greece 21-19 in the third quarter and 26-19 in the fourth, the USA squad easily advanced to the medal semifinals.
"I've been struggling a little bit with my confidence as far as putting the ball in the hole," said Johnson, who scored 14 of the USA's 19 points in the fourth quarter. "But that's one thing that we're not worried about, who's putting the ball in the hole. This is a very good team. We're not worried about what we do individually as long as we go out and win games. That's the most important thing. This is a very strong team. One through 12, this is probably one of the strongest teams the USA has ever put together. So we don't care who put the ball in the hole or who passed it, as long as it goes in."
In addition to Johnson's 21 points and Thompson's 20, the USA received 14 points from Griffith, Taurasi scored 13, and Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks) and Swoopes each chipped in 12. Griffith notched a double-double for the second game in a row after grabbing a game best 11 rebounds, while Thompson passed out five assists and Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever), who had four points and six rebounds, was credited with four steals.
Kostaki scored a game high 26 points for Greece, while Evanthia Maltsi had 15, Dimitra Kalentzou added 12 and Maria Samoroukova finished with 10 points.
As a team, the U.S. shot an even 50.0 percent (42-84 FGs) from the floor and Greece also connected on a fair amount of its shots, making 49.1 percent (26-53 FGs) for the game. Once again the U.S. was the dominator on the glass with a 44-22 rebounding advantage, including 21 on the offensive end. The United States also had its lowest amount of turnovers in the 04 Games with 10, compared to 19 for Greece. Utilizing its inside game, 52 of the USA's points were scored in the paint. The U.S. also received 18 points off Greek turnovers, scored 21 second chance points and 14 on the fast break
The USA was without the services of Katie Smith (Minnesota Lynx), who tore cartilage in her right knee during the Aug. 22 game against China.
Nigeria (1-5) won its first game yesterday and finished in 11th place after defeating South Korea (0-6) 68-64. China (2-4) took 9th place with an 82-63 decision over Japan (1-5).
With the victory over Greece, the U.S. upped its Olympic winning streak to 23 games, dating back to the 1992 bronze medal contest. The USA now owns a 40-3 overall record (.930 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.