USA Retains Perfect Spring Training Slate With 76-53 Victory Over MiZo Pécsi
Behind a game-high 20 points from Michelle Snow (Houston Comets), the 2006 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team (6-0) closed out its second European tour by running away with a 76-53 victory over top EuroLeague competitor MiZo Pécsi in Pécs, Hungary, on Friday night.
Following the announcement next week of the USA's final spring training roster, USA Basketball will convene in Boston for an April 1-4 training camp prior to competing in the Australia-hosted Opals World Challenge.
"I expected it to be very competitive," said USA and Seattle Storm head coach Anne Donovan. "I knew that Pécs would be the most competitive game on this trip. I'm just glad it was last because it seemed that everyday we got progressively better. I thought tonight we were very focused and really confident. That was a matter of being together this week and working hard together."
The USA, after trailing 16-14 against MiZo Pécsi to start the game, received four points from Snow and Kendra Wecker (San Antonio Silver Stars) converted a traditional 3-point play as the U.S. closed out the first quarter up 21-16.
The United States outscored MiZo Pécsi 17-11 in the second quarter, thanks in part to some defensive intensity that produced no less than four Pecs turnovers and forced the hosts into shooting 5-of-15 from the field. The U.S. also outrebounded Pécs 23-11 in the first 20 minutes and took an 11-point, 38-27, lead to the locker room.
MiZo Pécsi cut it to 10 points on two occasions and with 18:01 to play in the game the U.S. led 42-32. The contest would never be closer than that. The American women, playing as if they'd been together an entire season and not just a week, strung together a 15-0 run, from which the Hungarian squad would never recover.
"I think in this game we came out with more intensity than we did in the other two games," said Alana Beard (Washington Mystics). "To start the game we played great team defense and that was the difference in the third quarter. We played better team defense than we did in the first two quarters."
Katie Smith (Detroit Shock) opened the scoring spree with a pair of back-to-back buckets, then Snow scored four, Taj McWilliams-Franklin (Connecticut Sun) made good on a 3-point play. The run was capped with a Snow steal and a Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets) layup, and at the 4:00 mark the United States was well in command 57-32. Underscoring the USA's third-quarter dominating defensive effort, the U.S. was credited with five steals, accounting for all five of Pecsi's turnovers, while forcing the opponents into shooting a frigid 27.3 (3-11 FGs) percent from the field.
Despite a frantic fourth-quarter comeback attempt which saw MiZo Pécsi outscore the USA 11-2 over the final 3:19, the hosts never threatened and the U.S. remained undefeated in their spring training.
"Pecs is a great team, a great European team and one of the best teams in the EuroLeague," said Snow. "So we had to come in and respect their game, they have great depth, they have height, quick players, everything to match-up with us. They came out focused. But, as expected, we came out with our focus and were determined to pull this win out."
The USA's scoring output was well distributed, with everyone contributing in the scoring column. In addition to Snow's 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the field, McWilliams-Franklin contributed 11, Beard finished with 10, Swoopes tallied nine points and Smith tossed in eight. McWilliams-Franklin and Swoopes shared game-high rebounding honors with eight apiece, while Snow grabbed seven boards. Beard passed off for highs of four assists and four steals.
Owning a lopsided 44-22 rebounding advantage, including 15-4 on the offensive end, the United States scored 16 second chance points as compared to two from Pécs.
San Antonio's Vicki Johnson finished as her squad's leading scorer with 12 points.
Donovan is being assisted on the sidelines in Europe by 2006 USA World Championship assistant and WNBA Connecticut Sun head coach Mike Thibault, the only coach known to have served as a coach for a USA Basketball men's and women's team. Collegiate head coaches Gail Goestenkors of Duke University (N.C.) and Dawn Staley of Temple University (Pa.), have also been selected to assist Donovan and the U.S. squad at the 2006 World Championship, but are unable to aid in Europe due to their collegiate coaching commitments.
USA Basketball, which tonight concluded the second of three training camps, will conduct its final leg of training beginning in Boston, Mass., March 31-April 4 and conclude with the April 7-12 Australia-hosted Opals World Challenge. The USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Committee is utilizing these spring training camps to evaluate players for the final12-member team that will represent the United States at the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sept. 12-23.