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Nikki McCray

Flashback: U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball Team Thunders to 107-47 Win Over Zaire

  • Date:
    Jul 25, 1996

Relying on a balanced scoring attack that saw seven U.S. women hit double figures for scoring, the U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team led from start to finish and thundered past Zaire 107-47 on July 25 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The win improved the team’s preliminary pool play to 3-0, while Zaire's record fell to 3-0.

It was a record-setting day for the U.S. team. With an Olympic women's basketball record crowd of 30,230 on hand to cheer the Americans on, the USA squad responded with a 60-point victory, the USA's largest margin of victory in an Olympic game since women's basketball began in 1976. The USA's previous high was a 56-point win, 111-55 versus the Czechoslovakia in 1992.

"Our team played very well," said USA coach Tara VanDerveer. "We have been playing at Morehouse College and it was important to play here in the Georgia Dome. We shot the ball well and it was good to rest some players and give the opportunity for everyone to get involved.

"It was a great crowd. I lost a big bet on this one. I didn't expect to see such a large crowd at 12:00 p.m. on a weekday. I think that really helped our team, it had a lot to do with our enthusiasm and intensity."

Leading from start to finish, Katrina McClain got the U.S. off to a 3-0 start when she scored on a layup and added a free throw after being fouled. Holding a 9-5 advantage with 16:10 remaining in the opening half, guard Ruthie Bolton hit back-to-back 3-point field goals as the Americans scored 14 consecutive points during a 20-2 offensive run to push its lead to 29-7 with 9:39 to play before halftime. Ahead 50-22 at the half, the U.S. continued to build on its lead until claiming the 60-point victory, 107-47.

“It was really exhilarating because when you walk out, you feel like you're at a men's game, there were so many people there, so we were really pumped,” said Carla McGhee, who scored 10 points, of the crowd. “It was pretty cool, it was a record, it's never happened before and I've never been in front of that many people. I just feel very honored to be an American and to see that many people come out and support women's basketball."

Seven USA players scored in double digits, led by 18 points from guard Jennifer Azzi. Bolton added 15, Venus Lacey scored 13, Sheryl Swoopes and McClain and Nikki McCray each accounted for 12 points. McCray paced the USA's rebounding with eight boards and Lacey finished with seven.

The United States shot 55.1% (38-69 FGs) from the floor overall and 60.0% (6-20 3pt FGs) from 3-point, while Zaire was able to hit just 29.2% (19-65 FGs) of its tries from the field. The USA doubled Zaire's rebound totals, outrebounding the African champions 46 to 23, and the U.S. defense forced 24 turnovers.

"I didn't expect 30,000 people here today and it's a tribute to how far women's basketball has come,” said USA guard and 2020 Olympic coach Dawn Staley after the game. “When you come into a 30,000-seat arena you don't know what to expect. The biggest place I've played at was Tennessee and it's a 25.,000 seat arena and although they had around 20,000 people in there, it didn't seem like it because there were still pockets of empty seats. I was glad to see that when we walked in here, the people were there."

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