OLYMPIC UPDATE: Donovan's US Team Prevails Against Host China; Mali Falls To Czech Republic in Preliminary Round Women's Basketball Action

August 11, 2008
By ODU Athletics
ODU Sports

Aug. 11, 2008

Courtsey of USA Basketball and Beijing2008.CN

United States: 108, China: 63

Led by 27 points from Tina Thompson, the 2008 U.S. Women's Olympic Team (2-0) jumped on host country China (1-1) early and rode a 23-0 first quarter run to an easy 108-63 win Monday night at Wukesong Arena in Beijing, China.

In addition to Thompson, whose 27 points tied Cynthia Cooper and Katrina McClain for the fourth-best single-game scoring output in the women's U.S. Olympic record book, the USA was helped by 18 points and eight rebounds from Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky), 12 points from Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks) and a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double from three-time Olympic gold medalist Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks).

"We knew that the Chinese fans were going to be loud and strong as they were last night with the men's game. So we were excited to come in and feel that energy in Wukesong, and it was not disappointing," said USA head coach Anne Donovan ('83). "I'm really happy that we started the game stronger than we did against the Czechs. I thought that we set tempo very quickly and followed through for the 40 minutes. So, I'm pleased with the effort."

China's Chen Nan opened the game with four points and Bian Lan added two to help China take a 6-2 lead at 7:50 in the first period. Diana Taurasi countered with an easy basket at the rim, followed by a Sue Bird steal and fast-break layup to tie the score 6-6 at 7:22. The squads traded baskets in the next two minutes, and a 3-pointer from China brought the score to 11-10 in the host's favor at 5:48.

That was the last time China would score in the period or have a chance at a win, however, as the U.S. defense buckled down and its offense raced to a 23-0 run to close the period up 33-11. Thompson was the fuel to the USA's fire, scoring 13 of her 21 first half points during the stretch, including two 3-pointers and three points scored the old-fashioned way.

"I think it was a hard fought game. Very exciting," Thompson said. "The Chinese crowd was awesome, as usual. I was extremely proud of our team's defense. We came out, and we set the tone. We were very aggressive and that kind of created good offensive opportunities for us."

As the U.S. spread its 28 second-quarter points across eight players, including six from both Fowles and Thompson, China managed just 16 points in the period, and the U.S. lead ballooned to 34 points, 61-27, at the halftime intermission.

Eight points from Chen Nan and seven from Zhang Wei in the third quarter helped China nearly keep pace with the Americans, and the USA increased its advantage by just one point in the period to take a 81-46 lead.

Relying on its reserves, the USA went on to outscore China 27-17 in the final 10 minutes to bring the score to the final 108-63 tally.

Not only did every U.S. player score in the contest, but all 12 Americans collected at least one rebound to help the USA record a 47-30 advantage on the glass.

"It gives you a lot of confidence as a player to know that when you come in the game, the four other players out there with you are all excellent," said Kara Lawson (Sacramento Monarchs). "And then when you come out, you have the confidence that the player coming in for you is going to do a great job. I think you're just seeing us have a lot of fun out there, still learning to play with one another."

The USA shot an impressive 57.0 percent from the field (46-81 FGs), including 5-of-10 from 3-point, while holding China to 35.0 percent (22-63 FGs) overall and 25.0 percent from deep (4-16 3pt FGs).

In today's other games, preliminary group B action saw Spain (1-1) topple New Zealand (1-1) 85-62, and Czech Republic (1-1) storm past Mali (0-2) 81-47. In group B play Russia (2-0) grabbed its second win against South Korea (1-1) 77-72; and Belarus (1-1) easily handled Latvia (0-2) 79-57. Australia (1-0) and Brazil (0-1) compete in tonight's final game at 10:15 p.m. local time.

The USA women next face Mali at 10:15 p.m. (10:15 a.m. EDT) on Aug. 13; Spain on Aug. 15 at 8:00 p.m. (8:00 a.m. EDT); and close preliminary round play against New Zealand at 10:15 p.m. (10:15 a.m. EDT) on August 17. The women's quarterfinals will be contested Aug. 19, the semifinals on Aug. 21 and the gold and bronze medal games will be played on Aug. 23.

Donovan is being assisted by University of Texas head coach Gail Goestenkors, University of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley and Connecticut Sun head coach Mike Thibault.

The defending Olympic champs, the USA women in fact will be vying for a fourth consecutive Olympic gold. Since women's basketball was officially staged at the 1976 Olympics, the Americans have collected a record five gold medals, one silver and one bronze medal, while compiling a 42-3 (.933) overall record in seven Olympic appearances (the United States chose not to participate in the 1980 Olympic Games).

Czech Republic: 81, Mali: 47

The Czech Republic Women's Basketball team (1-1) beat Mali (0-2) 81-47 in a group B match in the preliminary round of the Olympic Women's Basketball tournament on Monday, August 11.

Mali's Djenebou Sissoko was the game's high scorer, netting 24 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. No one else on the Mali team scored in the double digits. Former Lady Monarch Hamchétou Maïga-Ba ('02) netted six points in the loss. Maïga-Ba, who played played just over 18 and a half minutes, went 3-of-9 from the floor along with five boards and two assists.

Hana Machova of the Czech Republic was the biggest contributor to her team, with 14 points, five rebounds and two assists. Her teammates Jana Vesela and Katerina Elhotova scored 12 points apiece.

The opening quarter ended tragically for Mali, who only managed to score four points against the 24 put up by the Czech Republic. However, Mali did a beautiful job in the second quarter, gaining 18 points when their opponent only took 15.

The Czech Republic picked up momentum in the third quarter, taking 18 points and allowing their opponent only 11. The European team further expanded its lead in the fourth quarter, gaining 25 points, 11 more than Mali, ending the game 81-47.

Maïga-Ba and Mali return to action against Donovan's USA team on Wednesday, August 13th.