Flashback: USA Dominates Inside En Route to Convincing 108-93 Win Over Japan in 1996 Quarterfinals Play
Relying on its inside game which dominated the smaller Japanese Olympic Team, the U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball Team recorded a convincing 108-93 victory on July 31 at the Georgia Dome in front of 31,070 fans. The win advanced the U.S. to the medal round semifinals, which will be played Friday, August 2.
Right from the start the USA frontcourt players proved to be too much for Japan, as the USA bigs accounted for 67 of the USA's 108 points. Led to the victory by 6-5 center Lisa Leslie's 35 points, which established a new USA record for most points scored in an Olympic game (surpassing the old mark of 28 points set by Medina Dixon against Spain in 1992), and 6-2 forward Katrina McClain was credited with 18 points and tied her own U.S. Olympic record with 16 rebounds.
"This was definitely the type of game I expected," said U.S. coach Tara VanDerveer. "I thought we did a really good job of getting the ball inside. Katrina (McClain) did a real good job rebounding and Lisa (Leslie) did a good job of scoring inside. I wish we would have done a little better job of taking away some of their 3-point shots, they did a good job of hitting their outside shots."
The U.S. jumped out to a 9-0 lead with the game just 2:16 old and maintained a comfortable lead throughout the first half before taking a 15-point, 59-44, advantage to the locker room at halftime. Leslie, McClain and 6-4 center Venus Lacey paced the U.S. team in the opening half, recording 16, 11 and eight points, respectively.
“I think that we are here at the Olympics and Japan is a great team and obviously they have gotten here with their size thus far,” said Leslie. “We just looked at our overall strengths and one of our strengths is our inside game with both Katrina and I in there. Even though they are smaller than us, I think they played very aggressive, they cut on us a lot, we were able to get the layups, but other than that, overall Japan did a great job and their strength is their three-point shooting and we were just wishing that they did not make so many of them. As much as we made the inside shots, they made the outside shots."
Opening the second half with 20-7 run which saw the U.S. increase its lead to 79-51 with 13:24 to play, Japan battled back to cut the U.S. advantage to 13, 89-76, with 6:42 remaining. However, Japan never got any closer as the U.S. regained the momentum and finished strong to capture the 108-93 win.
In addition to the impressive performances by Leslie and McClain, the U.S. squad received solid showings from Nikki McCray, 12 points, and Lacey, 10 points, while four-time Olympian Teresa Edwards accounted for four points and a team high 12 assists.
Forcing Japan into 12 turnovers, Japan shot 46.6% (35-75 FGs) from the field overall but hit 13 of 32 3-point tries for 40.6%.
The U.S., now 6-0 overall in Olympic play, will face Australia (5-1) in a medal round semifinals game on Aug. 2. The winners of the semifinals game will advance to the Aug. 4 gold medal contest.
"It really doesn't matter who we play,” said Edwards. “It's going to be a tough game. I think Australia is very tough. In my mind they have more weapons, but at the same time, who knows. Everyone gets up to play against us, and that is what we have to remember."