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Lisa Leslie

Flashback: USA Women Thump Australia 93-71, Earn Berth in Gold Medal Game

  • Date:
    Aug 2, 1996

With over nine months of training and games behind them, the U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball Team took a giant step toward bringing its dreams to a successful close and regaining the Olympic gold medal as the USA thumped Australia 93-71 in its Aug. 2 medal round semifinal game.

The win, played in front of 31,854 Georgia Dome fans, pushed the USA's overall record to 7-0 in the Olympics and advanced the American women into Sunday's gold medal contest against also unbeaten Brazil (7-0).

“It feels great knowing we're going to be playing for the gold medal,” said Sheryl Swoopes, who totaled 16 points. “We knew Australia was going to come out tough and play good in the first half, but we kept our composure and stayed focused. It's really kind of hard to celebrate this victory because we know how tough Brazil is and we have to get ready for them because they have a great team, both inside and outside. Having played them in '94 in the World Championships, being beat by them in the World Championship and losing the gold medal to them, at that time has really made us come out extra hard and get that title back of being world champion."

In earning the victory, the USA dominated its opponent as it has in virtually all of its previous games. Entering the semifinal matchup with an average margin of victory in its six previous wins of 30.5 points a game, after falling behind early, the USA went to its inside game where 6-5 Lisa Leslie accounted for 22 points and 13 rebounds and 6-3 Katrina McClain added 18 points and 15 rebounds.

"We knew we were going to have a real tough game against Australia, and they started out well and got ahead of us," remarked U.S. coach Tara VanDerveer. "I thought we really had some great performances from a lot of different individuals and collectively in the first half to get our lead. I think it (our comeback) was a real credit to our team's mental toughness and training together for a year. When we got down, we didn't fall apart, but we stayed with things and got good contributions from people on the bench."

Australia started the game red hot and behind 12 points from guard Michele Timms, the Aussies jumped out to an 18-10 lead with 14:19 remaining in the opening half. Remembering too well the USA's semifinal loss to the Unified Team in the 1992 Olympic Games, the USA stormed back.

Exploding on a 27-4 offensive run that gave the U.S. squad control 37-22 with 4:46 to play in the half, during that run and after tying the game 22-22, the U.S. reeled off 15 consecutive points to grab the momentum and control of the game.

Despite Timms scoring 20 first half points, the U.S. led 47-32 at halftime. Never recovering from the USA's first half run, Australia never seriously challenged the Americans in the second half as the USA went on to earn the 93-71 victory.

Owning a 48-25 advantage in rebounding, the U.S. contingent shot 59.4% (38-64 FGs) from the field. Australia struggled with its shooting all game, hitting just 34.9% (29-83 FGs) from the field overall and 29.2% (7-24 3pt FGs) of its 3-point tries.

Ruthie Bolton contributed 12 points, while guards Teresa Edwards and Dawn Staley directed the U.S. high octane offense to near perfection and in the process were credited with eight and seven assists, respectively. Timms finished with 27 points for Australia.

The USA, which won back-to-back gold medals at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics before capturing a bronze medal in 1992, will meet Brazil in Sunday's gold medal clash. Brazil, winners of the 1994 World Championship, earned its Olympic gold medal game berth after pounding Ukraine 81-60 Friday afternoon. Ukraine and Australia will meet Sunday in the bronze medal game.

"They're (Brazil) playing a lot of people and they're an up-tempo team and we're going to have to play great defense. That's our team's strength so we're looking forward to it," said VanDerveer about the gold medal game. "Brazil's the defending world champions and I think it's payback time. I think our team has worked really hard. We lost last time we played them (110- 107 in the 1994 World Championship semifinals). I think that could serve as a little extra motivation, we know we're going to have to play well. I think our team will be ready and I think it's going to be a great game."

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