USA Women’s National Team Caps Exhibition Schedule With 76-41 Victory Over Czech Republic
Prague, Czech Republic
The USA Basketball Women’s National Team (4-1) never trailed against host Czech Republic and expanded its 10-point halftime lead to 24 points at the end of the third quarter before earning a 76-41 victory on Tuesday night in Prague. Led by 16 points from Tina Charles (New York Liberty), the game was the final exhibition contest for the U.S. squad before it travels to Istanbul, Turkey, for the 2014 FIBA World Championship.
The FIBA World Championship will be held Sept. 27-Oct. 5 in Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey.
“The way the game against France unfolded, our players were really disappointed,” said USA and University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma. “They know that they are better than to let a game get away like that one got away from us. We were so much better defensively tonight, even though the Czech team is much younger. And we shot the ball a little better. We played really well on defense, so I think it was a perfect way to end. It was a real confidence booster for our guys going over to Turkey.”
Charles, who scored 10 of her 16 points in the first quarter, put up the game's first two points. Then, with the scored tied at four apiece, Sue Bird (Seattle Storm) hit a jumper at 5:34 to put the U.S. in the lead for good, 6-4. Charles then converted a three-point play and Bird netted a 3-pointer in a 6-0 run. The remainder of the first quarter saw back-and-forth mini runs by each team, and as the first 10 minutes expired, the USA’s lead was 19-12.
“I think Czech played good, coming in at the start,” said Charles. “They played hard and really aggressive. We were able just respond, play our game, execute plays that coach just put in, and everybody played within themselves, what we are all good at and known for individually.”
Starting the second quarter with an 8-4 run that included a pair of 3-pointers from Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), who closed the night with eight points and three steals, the USA held its largest lead of the first half, 27-15, with 6:25 remaining. From there, the Czechs outscored the USA 8-2 to close to within six points, 29-23 at 3:46. The American women closed the first half by netting 4-of-4 from the line to take the 10-point lead into the locker room.
At halftime the USA was winning the battle of the boards 23-18 and had an 8-5 steal and 5-1 blocked-shots advantage. The Czechs, however, had outscored the Americans 20-8 in the paint. Neither team had an easy time putting the ball in the bucket in the first half with the USA making 33.3 percent (11-33 FGs), while the Czech squad shot 32.4 percent (11-34 FGs).
That would change in the final 20 minutes of play.
“I think we missed a lot of easy shots in the first half, and that’s really what addressed (at halftime),” said Bird. “We ran good offense, and we got good looks. And to be honest, and this is no disrespect to the Czech team, we probably could have been up by that much in the first half had we made shots. So, we just talked about that, to really focus and make layups. We started to turn them over, and that turned into offense for us.”
The USA came out for the second half on fire, and in the decisive third quarter, outscored Czech Republic 22-8. After each team scored four apiece to bring the score to 37-27 at 6:38, the USA reeled off 10-straight points in an eventual 16-2 run to open up the game 53-29 at 1:12.
The 10-0 run was spurred by the USA’s defense, which forced two turnovers and five missed shots by the hosts. The Czech Republic was able to sink a pair of buckets during the remainder of the quarter, while the USA closed the first 30 minutes of play up 55-31.
“I think we did a better job this game than obviously in the previous game (against France),” said Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks). “We played pretty well against Australia, too, and China we had three good quarters. So, I think today was more representative of what we want to do defensively. We limited them to 23 points in the first half, and then they couldn’t double it in the second. So, I think definitely starting with defense, because obviously, we are not making a lot of shots. There were a lot of missed shots – open shots, but just not going in. And for us to rely on our defense is something that we want to put together for four quarters.”
In the third quarter, the United States hit 9-of-19 (.474) from the field and limited the hosts to just 4-of-18 (.222), while also owning a commanding 15-3 rebounding advantage. Additionally, the U.S. outscored the Czechs 14-6 in the paint.
The U.S. went on to win the fourth quarter 21-10 to bring the game to its final.
Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks) finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Breanna Stewart (University of Connecticut) scored nine.
“Everybody was able to play individually within themselves and what we are known for,” added Charles. “Nneka crashing the boards and finishing around the basket. Me, just trying to finish in the lane as much as I could, getting my man deep in the paint. So, just doing that, and defensively trying to be there in help. I think that plays a big role. There is no defensive three-second call. In the WNBA we have that, so it’s kind of hard to be in help for your teammates.”
Charles grabbed seven boards, while Bird, who had seven points and dished out four assists, Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream) and Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx) had six rebounds each. Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx), who played five seasons in Prague, had a game-high five assists.
The Americans finished the game shooting 43.0 percent (30-69 FGs) from the field and outrebounding the Czechs 51-28. Further, the U.S. dished out 18 assists and had 15 steals, which resulted in 11 points. The Czechs were able to capitalize for only four points on the USA’s 19 turnovers. The Americans also held a 38-34 margin in points in the paint.
The USA squad will depart for Istanbul tomorrow morning where it will finalize preparations for the 2014 FIBA World Championship, set to tip on Sept. 27.
“We’ve steadily gotten better and better, and the games that we did play, we saw a lot,” stated Bird. “And to finish on this high note is great heading into the Worlds. We know what we have to do, and now it’s time to truly focus and do it.”
Auriemma is being assisted on the sideline by DePaul University head coach Doug Bruno, Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve and University of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley; while University of Hartford head coach Jennifer Rizzotti serves as an advance scout and court coach for the 2014 USA squad.
The USA owns a record eight gold medals, one silver medal and two bronze medals in FIBA World Championship play, while compiling an all-time 97-21 record at the event. In 2010, the most recent World Championship, the U.S. finished with a perfect 9-0 record and the gold medal.
STAT NOTES: Points off turnovers (USA 11, CZE 4) … points in the paint (USA 38, CZE 34) … points off the bench (USA 39, CZE 13) … the USA held the Czechs to 18 points in the second half after allowing 23 points in the first half.