Preview >> USA Women vs. Australia In The Gold Medal Game
TV: Live at 10:00 a.m. on NBC and NBC HD.
*All times listed are Eastern Daylight Time.
In the 2008 Olympics
Australia enters the gold medal game, like the USA, undefeated at 7-0. In preliminary group play, the Aussies topped Belarus 83-64, Brazil 80-65, South Korea 90-63, Latvia 96-73 and Russia 75-55. Australia advanced as Group A's No. 1 seed and downed Czech Republic 79-46 in the quarterfinals and China 90-56 in the semifinals to advance to Saturday's final. Lauren Jackson, a two-time WNBA MVP, led the Opals with 18 points against Belarus, 30 points against Latvia, 16 points against Russia, and 17 against Czech Republic. Laura Summerton tallied a team-high 18 points against Brazil, 2006 World Championship MVP Penny Taylor scored 18 against South Korea and Belinda Snell recorded 16 points against China.
Overall, Jackson leads four players averaging double figures for Australia with 16.9 ppg. along with 8.4 rpg.; followed by Suzy Batkovic with 12.4 ppg. and 8.9 rpg.; Taylor with 12.0 ppg. and 7.2 rpg. and Snell with 10.9 ppg. Kristi Harrower leads the tournaments individuals with 4.8 apg., while the Aussies are shooting 42.8 percent from the field, 30.2 percent from 3-point and 75.3 percent from the free throw line to win games by an average of 24.6 ppg. Australia is holding opponents to 35.1 percent from the field to rank No. 1 in the tournament for field goal percentage defense, and also ranks No. 1 in offensive rebounds (130), defensive rebounds (218), rebounding margin (+16.1 rpg.) and rebounding offense (49.7 rpg.).
Aug. 9: Australia 83, Belarus 64 - Stats
Aug. 11: Australia 80, Brazil 65 - Stats
Aug. 13: Australia 90, South Korea 63 - Stats
Aug. 15: Australia 96, Latvia 73 - Stats
Aug. 17: Australia 75, Russia 55 - Stats
Aug. 19:Australia 79, Czech Republic 46 - Stats
Aug. 21: Australia 90, China 56 - Stats
A Little History
Australia earned its 2008 Olympic berth by capturing the gold medal at the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Brazil. It was Australia's first gold medal ever in Olympic or World Championship play, and they're gunning to dethrone the USA, three-time defending Olympic gold medalist, in Beijing.
The U.S. and Australia have met four times at the Olympics, most recently in the Athens Olympics gold medal game where the USA came away with the 74-63 victory and the top spot on the podium. The USA also topped Australia in the 2000 gold medal game in Sydney, securing a 76-54 victory. In fact, the U.S. has never lost to Australia in Olympic or World Championship play and owns an overall 13-0 record against the Opals in those two events.
After not medaling at an Olympics or World Championship until Atlanta in 1996, Australia has been on the medal stand in each of the last five â€˜majors.' The Opals finished with a silver medal at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, bronze at the â€˜96 Games and bronze medals at the 1998 and 2002 World Championships before claiming the top spot in 2006.
Many of the Aussies are familiar faces to the U.S. squad. Not only have the two teams met several times recently, but many Australians have competed in the WNBA over the past few years, including Suzy Batkovic, Tully Bevilaqua, Kristi Harrower, Lauren Jackson, Erin Phillips, Laura Summerton and Penny Taylor. Sue Bird is not only a teammate of Lauen Jackson's with the Seattle Storm, she and Diana Taurasi compete alongside Jackson on Spartak Moscow in Russia during the winters. Cappie Pondexter and Diana Taurasi teamed up with Taylor to capture the 2007 WNBA crown with the Phoenix Mercury. Additionally, Tamika Catchings and Bevilaqua are teammates on the Indiana Fever.
Most recently, these two teams met in exhibition play on Aug. 5 in the 2008 FIBA Diamond Ball gold medal game, with the USA coming away victorious 71-67. The game was a typical fight to the finish match. Lisa Leslie led the way for the USA with a 14-point, 10-reboound double-double, while Taylor score 19 points for Australia.
The Scouting Report
USA assistant coach Mike Thibault
Since we last played Australia in the Diamond Ball, how have both teams improved?
I think both teams have gotten a better flow to their offense since then. That was a kind of a defensive struggle, and maybe it will still be that way because we know each other so well. Both teams like to run the ball up and down the floor, both teams have mobile post players and good shooters. We are somewhat of a mirror image of each other in terms of style of play. I thought coming into the tournament they were a little bit ahead of us in terms of offensive execution because they have played together longer, but I think we have started to catch up in that area. And we've been really good defensively.
How do we win this game?
I think one part is that we have to use our depth. We have that maybe a little bit more than they do. I think the game will come down to three factors, rebounding, turnovers and fouls. Which ever team does better in at least two of those three, probably has the best chance of winning. Those seem to be the factors that keep popping up for both teams in big games right now.
Do these two teams bring out the best in each other?
Oh no question they do. I think because their players play in the WNBA, both teams are familiar with each other. They all know how everyone plays and the advantages you do or don't have. I think the two best teams in the tournament made it to this gold medal game, and the winner will deserve that honor. I expect both teams to rise to the occasion.
What is the mood in the locker room?
I think there are two emotions. Excited and relieved. Russia was a big hurdle considering our loss to them in the 2006 World Championships. I think we were a little bit tight offensively in the first half, and I think our defense got us through. Since our very first practice in Palo Alto, we've preached that if you defend, you are going to give yourself a chance to win, which we did. That's important because we may need that attitude again against Australia. And I know everybody is excited about playing Australia, but not so excited that they will lose their focus. We know we have to be on our best game. I think we are ready. We've worked really hard to get here, and now it's down to that one last game.