USA National Team Falls To Host China 84-81 In Good Luck Beijing Tourney Gold Medal Contest
April 26, 2008 ï¿½ Beijing China
The USA Basketball Womenï¿½s National Team (4-2) came back from an early 12-point deficit, but was unable to hold on as host China (5-1) clipped the U.S. 84-81 in the 2008 Good Luck Beijing Tournamentï¿½s gold medal game on Saturday night at the Wukesong Arena. Led by Katie Smithï¿½s (Detroit Shock) 16 points, the USA received 14 points and eight rebounds from Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky), 13 points and three steals from Swin Cash (Seattle Storm), Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks) posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards, while Kara Lawson (Sacramento Monarchs) contributed nine points, six rebounds and five assists, as the USA closed the tournament with the silver medal.
Australia (3-3) held off Cuba (3-3) 65-61 for the bronze medal, while South Korea (2-4) edged New Zealand (1-5) 70-67 in the fifth place game.
ï¿½I have to give all the credit to China,ï¿½ said USA head coach Anne Donovan. ï¿½They came out and played a tremendous game, they really attacked us in the first half with penetration and we struggled to contain it. We made some good runs in the second half, in the fourth quarter in particular, but we just didnï¿½t lock down defensively and get stops.ï¿½
ï¿½They were really aggressive,ï¿½ said Smith. ï¿½Our defense was not as good as it was the other night. They really capitalized off of our turnovers, got some easy fast break buckets and got to the free throw line. Those three things hurt us when it came down to the end. But giving up 84 points was too much. Youï¿½re not going to win many ball games giving up that many points.ï¿½
China, which scored 17 points off of the USAï¿½s 18 turnovers in the game, jumped out to an early lead and was up 12-8 in under five minutes of play. The hosts capitalized on the USAï¿½s foul troubles during the remainder of the period as Cash, Fowles, Laura Harper (Sacramento Monarchs), Leslie and Taj McWilliams-Franklin (Washington Mystics) were whistled for two infractions during the opening 10 minutes of play. China collected nine points from the line in the first stanza and when the buzzer for the first break sounded China owned a 10-point, 27-17, lead.
ï¿½They were all over us in the post,ï¿½ said Leslie. ï¿½With the double- and triple-team they were obviously trying to slow down Sylvia and me. Having five or six players in foul trouble early didnï¿½t help, that really hurt us. I didnï¿½t have my strongest game at all. I have to be better for our team.ï¿½
The U.S. cut down on its turnovers in the second period, dropping from nine to three, and cut Chinaï¿½s lead to 47-39 at the midway point.
Coming out of the locker room with more focus than in the first half, the American women began chipping away at Chinaï¿½s lead. At 3:30, with China ahead 55-52, Candice Wiggins (Minnesota Lynx) kicked off an 8-0 run that featured four different players scoring, and at the 1:50 mark the USA seemed to take control of the game, 60-55. From there, however, it was a back and forth battle as the U.S. struggled to put some distance between them and China and with 6:41 left to play the USA again held a five-point, 72-67, lead.
Lan Bian scored seven straight points as China scored 12 unanswered points, bringing the crowd back to life and retaking the lead for good. During Chinaï¿½s run that left the hosts up by seven, 79-72 with 3:57 to play, the USA committed three consecutive turnovers and on the defensive end allowed the Chinese squad to shoot 5-of-6 from the field.
Hoping to regain the lead the red, white and blue looked to its veterans and received four points and an assist from Leslie, a three from Smith and a basket, assist and steal from Cash to pull the game within reach, 83-81, with 1:11 to play.
The U.S. was unable to convert on its next possession and then committed two fouls, the second of which resulted in the gameï¿½s final point with eight ticks left on the clock. The USA quickly got the ball up the court and Leslie managed to get off a 3-point attempt, but the teamï¿½s gold medal hopes were dashed when the ball missed its mark and the buzzer sounded.
The USA defense, which held opponents in its first five games to an average of 62.2 points a contest, had a difficult time containing China and gave up the most points of any game in the tournament. However, the USA cleaned the glass for a 42-26 rebounding advantage.
ï¿½Thereï¿½s not any team, not any country, where you can come in with less than your best, not play well and then expect to walk out with a win,ï¿½ added Donovan. ï¿½Thatï¿½s been our challenge, trying to find the time for our players to get together and train. We simply havenï¿½t had it. Weï¿½ve trained different players at different times and right now Lisaï¿½s getting good experience. But we donï¿½t have our perimeter to work with her. Our challenge will be in July when we get together, weï¿½ll have to form that chemistry really quickly.ï¿½
China veteran Lijie Miao paced her teamï¿½s attack with 26 points, while Nan Chen scored 15 and Xiaoli Chen tossed in 12 points.
Lindsey Harding (Minnesota Lynx) strained her left knee in the USAï¿½s game against China on April 24 and is listed as day-to-day.
Donovan is being assisted on the sidelines by collegiate head coaches Gail Goestenkors of the University of Texas and Temple Universityï¿½s Dawn Staley. USA assistant coach Mike Thibault (Connecticut Sun) aided in the teamï¿½s pre-Beijing training camp but was unable to join the team in China due to his WNBA coaching duties.