China No Match For USA As American Women Run Away With 87-53 Win

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April 10, 2006 • Canberra, Australia
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The young guns are playing well due, in part, to the veteran leadership and on-court coaching of two of the game's best in two-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Smith (left) and 2004 Olympic gold medal winner Tina Thompson.

Candace Parker (Tennessee / Naperville, Ill.) scored a game-high 17 points and Tina Thompson (Houston Comets) contributed a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds as the 2006 USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team (9-0, 3-0 Opals World Challenge) ran away with an 87-53 victory over China (1-2) on Monday morning in Canberra. At the end of the first half in the day's second game, host Australia (1-1) was outdistancing Chinese Taipei (Taiwan / 0-2) 57-32.

The Opals World Challenge continues in Canberra on Tuesday, April 11 when the USA tips-off against Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) at 6:00 p.m. (4:00 a.m. EDT), and the tournament concludes with the second USA-Australia clash on April 12 at 8:00 p.m. (6:00 a.m. EDT).

"Our focus coming in today, in all three games in Canberra, was to play much better defense than we did in Cairns," said USA and Seattle Storm head coach Anne Donovan. "We put teams on the free throw line way too much. We're trying to clean it up defensively and I think we can do a better job with our help side than we did tonight, but overall it's a step in the right direction.

"When I watched the tape of the first China game, we looked like a team that was running amok. The fatigue and jet lag was really evident. But with every game, with every practice, we get more and more together and really get better. That's what it takes to get into a comfort level for playing together. Our depth really helps us. We can go hard, hard, hard, and then bring in good depth off the bench that will help us sustain what the starters have begun."

After spending the first quarter in an even battle that ended with the score tied at 15-all, the United States went off for 30 points in the second to virtually seal the win with a 45-27 halftime lead.

Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx), playing in her first senior level game for USA Basketball, made a steal and got it to Parker for a layup in the first 14 seconds of the second quarter. That play was a foreshadow of what China would be faced with before halftime as the U.S. used defensive pressure and fast breaks to dominate the stanza.

Following China veteran Lijie Miao's traditional 3-point play, Kristin Haynie (Sacramento Monarchs) took a feed from Augustus for a mid-range jumper at the 9:00 mark. That sparked a 12-2 USA run that was capped by a fast-break layup after Jessica Davenport (Ohio State / Columbus, Ohio) grabbed a defensive board, heaved it down the court to a sprinting Katie Smith (Detroit Shock) and at 5:04 the United States owned a 31-20 advantage.

China cut the gap to nine, 25-27, at 2:42, but the Americans ramped up the defense once more and scored 10 unanswered points to close the half with a substantial 45-27 advantage.

"I think we executed our plan very well, we kept them off the free throw line," said Parker. "We did a better job defensively and we did a good job of pushing tempo."

By halftime Parker had 12 points and Thompson had collected 11 rebounds and eight points.

As a unit, in the second period alone, the U.S. notched two steals, forced a total of seven Chinese turnovers, outrebounded China 11-4 and received 16 points from the bench.

With the United States holding a 47-31 lead, Smith stole the ball, got it to Alana Beard (Washington Mystics), who fed Swin Cash (Detroit Shock) on the inside and the U.S. was again off and running. Allowing China just one field goal through the remainder of the quarter, the Americans outscored their opponents 20-4 over the final 6:49 of the quarter to put the nail in the coffin, 67-35, with 10 minutes still to play. Settling in for the final period, the U.S. came away with the lopsided victory.

In addition to the combined 31 points and 21 rebounds from Parker and Thompson, Augustus came up with 11 points and Smith added 10. Parker also dished out a game-best four assists and was credited with five blocked shots, while Augustus had a high of four steals.

China's Chen Xiaoli, who scored her team's first nine points of the game, finished with 15 and a team-best seven rebounds, while Zhang Xiaoni scored 13.

Shooting an even 50 percent (38-76 FGs), the United States held China to a chilly 30.6 percent (19-62 FGs) of its tries and dominated the glass by a 52-37 margin. In contrast to the first USA-China meeting, where China had 31 attempts from the stripe, the United States gave them only 21 shots from the line. Defensively the USA picked up 13 steals and had eight blocks. On the other end of the court the squad got 15 second chance points and passed off for 19 assists on 38 field goals, while also receiving a total of 44 points from the reserves compared to China's 22 bench points.

"Our defense was the key thing in this game, we stopped their dribble penetration," said Thompson. "Their post players were walking us down and getting in position in the post and we stopped that today. We didn't put them on the line, that was the biggest key for our defense. With them not getting on the line and scoring points, they probably had 20 points in the first half the first time we played them from the free throw line. So cutting that down definitely was the difference in the game."

Due to the timing of the 2006 WNBA Draft, Donovan, USA assistant coach Mike Thibault of the Connecticut Sun and the No. 2 pick Cappie Pondexter (Phoenix Mercury / Rutgers / Chicago, Ill.) arrived in Cairns in time for the first game. Due to flight delays, Augustus, the No. 1 selection by the Minnesota Lynx, will met up with the team on Sunday in Canberra for the final three contests.

Sylvia Fowles (Louisiana State / Miami, Fla.) suffered a dislocated right shoulder in the USA's April 8 contest against Australia and will not compete in the remainder of the Opals World Challenge.

USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team
This marks USA Basketball's third of three spring training camps, which has seen 2006 USA World Championship Team hopefuls go against top national and professional club teams from around the globe to help determine the 12-member roster for the 2006 USA Women's World Championship Team. The USA previously posted an overall 6-0 record over top professionals during two training camps in Europe, March 2-9 and March 18-24.

The USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Committee, chaired by Reneé Brown, the WNBA's Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations, selected the athletes for the three spring training camps. The spring training will give the coaching staff and USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team Committee a chance to evaluate a variety of candidates competing for the 12 roster positions on the 2006 USA World Championship Team that will be announced later this summer.

Following the 2006 WNBA season, the USA will regroup in late August for a final training camp before heading to Brazil to defend its World Championship title at the 15th FIBA World Championship, slated to be played Sept. 12-23 in Sao Paulo.

Donovan will be assisted at the 2006 FIBA World Championship by Thibault and collegiate head coaches Gail Goestenkors of Duke University (N.C.) and Dawn Staley of Temple University (Pa.). Because of Donovan and Thibault's delayed arrival in Australia Staley served as head coach for the squad's first contest on April 7.

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