USA Women Dismantle Nigeria 79-46 In Second Night Of World Championship Play    

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September 13, 2006 • Barueri, Brazil
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Seimone Augustus, the 2006 WNBA Rookie of the Year, looks to pass to a teammate against Nigeria. (Photo: USA Basketball)

DeLisha Milton-Jones' (Washington Mystics) 13 points paced a balanced scoring attack that saw every member of the team score for the second night in a row as the 2006 USA Basketball World Championship Team (2-0) put Nigeria (0-2) away early for a 79-46 victory on Wednesday night in the José Corrêa Arena in Barueri, Brazil.

The U.S., which shot 51.8 percent (29-56 FGs), spent much of the night working on defense in preparation for tomorrow night's clash against also unbeaten Russia (2-0). That defensive effort forced Nigeria into coughing up the ball 19 times and shooting an ice-cold 20.7 percent (12-58 FGs) from the field. The USA versus Russia game will air live on Sept. 14 at 4:30 (all times EDT) on NBATV and again at midnight on FSN.

Milton-Jones scored the first basket as the USA opened the game with five uncontested points that ballooned to a 20-1 lead with 1:20 to play in the first quarter. By the end of the first period the United States had the game well in hand, 25-4. During the opening stanza the United States held Nigeria to a lone field goal, while shooting 10-of-19 from the field on the offensive end.

"We came out of the gates really playing well, our first quarter was brilliant," said USA and Seattle Storm head coach Anne Donovan. "And then it's difficult, I think, to maintain that intensity, that drive, when the score is ... the gap becomes that great. I think we fell prey to that a little bit."

The second period was a little more even, the USA outscored Nigeria 12-11 in that span, and at halftime the USA was up 37-15. Highlighting the USA's dominating half, the Americans outrebounded Nigeria 30-12 and their suffocating defense held the Nigerians to a frigid 13.1 percent (5-38 FGs) shooting from the field.

"I will say that there were goals defensively, things we wanted to accomplish, and we met those goals tonight," added Donovan. "I'm pleased with that. I know that our focus can be better throughout a 40-minute game and it will be better. Overall I thought it was a great effort. The one area we can do much better with is taking care of the ball. This is an anomaly, you won't see this team turn the ball over again 20 times I hope."

The second half was more of the same as the United States was up 55-36 after three and ran away with the eventual 79-46 victory.

"We set out with some goals before the game started and we did a good job of achieving those goals," said Milton-Jones. "But overall if I had to grade our play today I would say that we weren't on our normal level as far as USA Basketball is concerned. We really didn't shoot the ball all that well today. I felt that if we did shoot the ball as well as we did yesterday the score would have been larger than what it was. But overall, when you go out to play you want to get the win ultimately, but tonight was a game where we were playing a team that was very physical. They're athletic as well, so we really have to concentrate on the defensive end. We showed moments of greatness and we showed moments of weakness. I'm sure that this is something that coach Anne Donovan will address in the coming days."

In addition to Milton-Jones' team-high 13 points, Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx) and Tina Thompson (Houston Comets) each pitched in 10, while Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets) and Sue Bird (Seattle Storm) dished out seven and six assists, respectively. Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) led the team on the boards with seven.

The USA not only forced Nigeria into poor shooting and turnovers, it also outrebounded the Africans 44-21. On the downside, the United States turned the ball over 22 times against Nigeria and struggled from 3-point, connecting on just 3-of-12 of its tries from afar.

The win also set up a match between the world's No. 1 and No. 2 women's basketball powers, according to FIBA rankings. It also brings to mind the recent World Championship history between the two teams: the USA defeated Russia in the preliminary rounds and again in the gold medal games at each of the last two World Championships (Berlin in 1998; Nanjing, China in 2002). Olga Arteshina, a 6-3 forward, and 6-7 ½ Maria Stepanova are leading the way for Russia with 14.0 ppg. each.

"We know that Russia is very big from the two on down to the five," added Milton-Jones, who spent two seasons playing in the Russian pro league. "That can cause a lot of problems for a team as far as getting into the lane and they can always contest the shot or contesting a shot on the outside. We're going to have to play perfect basketball tomorrow."

Donovan is being assisted on the sidelines by 2006 WNBA Coach of the Year Mike Thibault of the Connecticut Sun and collegiate head coaches Gail Goestenkors of Duke University (N.C.) and Dawn Staley of Temple University (Pa.).

In other preliminary round action Argentina (1-1) defeated Spain (1-1) 77-64, France (2-0) ran past Taiwan (0-2), host Brazil (2-0) collected a 106-86 victory over south Korea, Russia (2-0) ran away from China (0-2) in the second half for an 86-66 win, Lithuania (1-1) powered past Canada (1-1) 84-58, the Czech Republic (1-1) handed Cuba (1-1) a 73-51 setback and Australia (2-0) had no problem against Senegal (0-2) 95-55.

All of the USA's World Championship games are being televised live on NBA TV, with FSN (Fox Sports Network) replaying the games each night at midnight (all times EDT). The USA concludes preliminary round play against against Russia on Sept. 14 at 4:30 p.m.

Donovan is being assisted at the 2006 FIBA World Championship by 2006 WNBA Coach of the Year Mike Thibault of the Connecticut Sun 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.

2006 FIBA World Championship
The United States is looking at the 2006 FIBA World Championship, hosted by Brazil Sept. 12-23, to continue building upon the success it's experienced over the last decade in the international arena. Since the 1996 Olympic Games the USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team has posted five consecutive gold medals at the Olympics and FIBA World Championships. Not only have the American women finished on the top of the podium, they have posted an unblemished 42-0 record, an unparalleled streak over the past decade among U.S. women's traditional team sports. Additionally, the United States is No. 1 in the world in every age group after also claiming gold at the 2005 FIBA U19 World Championship and 2003 FIBA U21 World Championship.

The Donovan-led U.S. squad will seek to defend its World Championship title at the 15th FIBA World Championship. Behind the play of 2002 FIBA World Championship MVP Leslie, as well as Bird, Catchings, Milton-Jones, Smith and Swoopes, the United States captured the ‘02 gold medal, successfully defending it's 1998 World Championship crown.

The U.S. entered this year's Worlds with a record seven gold medals, one silver and one bronze at the World Championship, while compiling an 80-20 (.800 winning percentage) record, including a 19-0 winning streak that dates back to the 1994 bronze medal game.

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