|USA Remains Perfect With 76-41 Victory Over France|
Diana Taurasi Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) scored 10 of her game-high 15 points in the third quarter as the 2006 USA Basketball Women's World Championship Team pulled away from France (3-2) for a 76-41 victory on Sunday afternoon in the José Corrêa Arena in Barueri, Brazil. Tina Thompson (Houston Comets) pitched in 12 points as every member of the squad scored.
The victory pushed the USA's current FIBA World Championship winning streak, which dates to the 1994 World Championship bronze medal game, to 24 games and extends the USA's string of victories to 48 overall in the Olympics and Worlds.
The U.S. closes out second round play Sunday at 6:45 p.m. (all times EDT) against the Czech Republic (4-1) in a game that will determine the top seed to emerge from Group F into the medal quarterfinals. The USA versus Czech contest will air live on NBA TV and FSN is scheduled to replay the contest at midnight.
"I would say France is stronger defensively than anyone else we've seen," said USA and Seattle Storm head coach Anne Donovan. "They mix it up a little bit with the full-court pressure, the trapping, full-court man-to-man. So they kept the pressure on our point guard bringing the ball up. I thought they did a great job defensively. They forced a lot of turnovers, which has been our focus, not to turn the ball over."
The USA hit its first three attempts and started the game on a 9-3 run, five of which came from Taurasi. Nearly five minutes into the game the U.S. was up 12-8 when Thompson sank a three to spark a 10-0 run and at 3:28 the American women were up 22-8. By the end of the quarter France managed to cut the gap to 24-15.
The second quarter was an even affair in terms of points as each team notched 12, which included for France a long-range 3-pointer by Celine Dumerc at the halftime buzzer. The United States, which made 8-of-16 tries from the field in the first quarter, was forced by France's defensive pressure into shooting just 30.0 percent (3-10 FGs) from the field and committing seven turnovers. The USA's pressure was even more disruptive to France, though, as it managed just 5-of-22 (.227) from the field.
"I thought it was a really good game for us," said Taurasi. "Obviously France has been playing really good basketball, but we came out in the first quarter and dictated the tempo from the get-go, which is what we wanted to do. France didn't go away in the second quarter, they played really tough. We put emphasis on that third quarter and I think that's what put us over the top in the game."
The United States wanted to make a statement in the second half and it showed. France got as close as it would get the remainder of the game, 36-29, before Taurasi, who missed the second quarter after picking up a pair of fouls in the first, took a Thompson pass and made a three at 9:09. France was unable to get off a decent shot and on the USA's end Thompson got a look inside from Sue Bird (Seattle Storm) and at 8:37 the U.S. was up 41-29.
France cut it back to 10 points at 7:42 before Taurasi hit another three, followed by a layup at 6:06 as the United States expanded its lead to 46-31. Both team swapped baskets over the ensuing minutes and with 12:49 to go France scored the first of its final two field goals of the contest as the U.S. led 52-37.
"Obviously when you've been sitting on the bench you want to come in and make a little bit of an impact, but I just got a couple good looks that hit the basket," said Taurasi. "It ended up working out really well."
Cheryl Ford (Detroit Shock) drove the land for a layup to score the first bucket of a 24-4 scoring spree that allowed the American women to close out the game with the dominating 76-41 win. France, which got a pair of points from the line at 11:56, connected on its final basket with 5:45 left to play in the game.
The 40-14 second half score was highlighted by the USA holding France to a frigid 16.7 percent (5-30 FGs) and forcing 10 turnovers in the half.
The United States once again showed its opponents a well-balanced offensive attack as every member scored, including eight points and seven rebounds from Catchings, as well as seven points apiece from DeLisha Milton-Jones (Washington Mystics) and Candace Parker (Tennessee / Naperville, Ill.). Bird passed out four assists and Thompson also collected seven rebounds.
The 41 points was the lowest the U.S. has held any opponent at the World Championship, however, the 76 points scored were also a low for the squad. Finishing shooting 49.1 percent (28-57 FGs) from the field and 40.0 percent from beyond the arc, the USA held France to just 22.1 percent (15-68 FGs) overall and a paltry 12.5 (2-16 3pt FGs) from 3-point. Once again the United States owned the boards, 46-24, but in what has become a thorn in Donovan's side the team was forced into committing 22 turnovers.
Dumerc and Sandra LeDrean scored eight points apiece for France.
In other Group F second round action Russia (2-3) fell to the Czech Republic (4-1) 85-83 and China (2-3) edged Cuba (2-3) 73-70. In Group E, Australia (5-0) remained the only other undefeated team after downing host Brazil (3-2) 82-73, Lithuania (3-2) had no problem with Argentina (3-2) 62-47 and Canada's (1-4) hopes of advancing to the medal rounds were dashed with an 85-57 thumping by Spain (3-2).
With the exception of Canada (last) and Australia (first), the seedings for Group E are wide open with four teams holding identical 3-2 slates. In Group F the seedings get even murkier and tomorrow's games will decide which teams advance to medal round play and which nations will play for 9th through 12th places.
In classification finals, South Korea (2-3) took Taiwan (1-4) 73-52 for 13th place and Senegal (1-4) clipped Nigeria (0-5) 66-64 for 15th place.
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).
Quarterfinals are scheduled for Sept. 20, with the semifinals played Sept. 21. On Sept. 22, the bronze medal will be contested at 10:00 a.m., with the gold medal game following at 1:00 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.).
2006 FIBA 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.