OLYMPIC UPDATE: Team USA Women's Basketball Heads Into Medal Round Quarterfinals

August 17, 2008
By ODU Athletics
ODU Sports

Aug. 17, 2008

Courtsey of USA Basketball

United States: 96, New Zealand: 60

In its final preliminary round game, the 2008 U.S. Women's Olympic Team (5-0) tucked another dominating performance under its belt as they head into the medal round quarterfinals.

The U.S., which had won its first four games by an average of 44.8 points a game, needed 10 minutes to warm up before securing the blowout. Outscoring their opponent 27-6 in the second quarter, the USA women pounded New Zealand (1-4) 96-60 Sunday night at Wukesong Arena in Beijing, China.

The USA, which emerged from Group B with the No. 1 seed, opens medal round quarterfinal play at 8:00 p.m. (8:00 a.m. EDT on USA, USA HD) on Wednesday, Aug. 19 against South Korea (2-3), the No. 4 seed from Group A.

"Once again, we're pleased to get a game behind us and I feel like we got better in the process which I think we did," said USA head coach Anne Donovan. "I think these (upcoming) games are going to be really interesting. There is really only one team on our mind, and that's South Korea right now."

Tina Thompson (Houston Comets) led four U.S. scorers in double figures with 15 points; Katie Smith (Detroit Shock) added 13 points; Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx) tallied 12 points and Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever) contributed 11 points.

"We want to be seeded number one in our pool and go from there," Thompson said. "This is why we play. We knew this is how it was going to be, and that's how the tournament is set up and hopefully through our pool play, we have prepared ourselves enough to face our opponents. The competition is going to get a lot stronger from this point on, it's one and done. But that's why we play at the level that we played throughout the pool play to get to this point."

The U.S. dominated nearly every statistical category Sunday night, outrebounding New Zealand 36-27, forcing 21 turnovers and scoring 40 points in the paint to New Zealand's 12.

While the USA shot 44.4 percent from the field in the first period, well below the 57.3 percent it would shoot for the game, New Zealand made 7-of-15 from the field and sank two 3-pointers in the first quarter to keep the Americans within five points, 23-18, when the first quarter buzzer sounded.

Augustus opened the second period with a baseline drive and after the U.S. had expanded its lead to 31-22, New Zealand called a timeout with 7:10 on the clock. Coming out of the break, the USA forced a shot clock violation, one of seven turnovers it forced in the second period alone, and from there the red, white and blue raced to 21 unanswered points. Thompson tallied 10 points during the spurt, and the USA took a 50-22 lead when DeLisha Milton-Jones (Los Angeles Sparks) sank a bucket with 19.4 seconds remaining before the halftime intermission. New Zealand's Jillian Harmon, a rising senior at Stanford University, hit a baseline jumper to beat the buzzer, and the score was 50-24 as the USA headed to the locker room.

Led by eight points from Smith, who sank one of the USA's three 3-pointers in the period, the USA outscored New Zealand 25-18 in the third quarter to improve its lead to 75-42.

The U.S. continued to control the game through the final buzzer, taking its biggest lead, 29 points, off an Augustus basket at 2:40 that brought the score to 92-53.

"I think as a team, one through 12, we did a really good job," Catchings said. "We lost focus here and there but overall, I know Anne was pretty impressed. I think as a team we're moving forward and we're ready to start focusing on our next opponent, South Korea and getting ready for them."

In today's other final preliminary games, Australia (5-0) topped Russia (4-1) 75-55; Brazil (1-4) earned its first win of the tournament against Belarus (2-3) 68-53; and South Korea (2-3) downed Latvia (1-4) 72-68.

Headed into the medal round quarterfinals, Australia earned Group A's No. 1 seed, followed by No. 2 Russia, No. 3 Belarus and No. 4 South Korea, while the No. 5 and No. 6 finishers, Latvia and Brazil, respectively, have concluded their Olympic play.

In Group B, Spain (3-2) beat Mali (0-5) 79-47, and China (4-1) defeated Czech Republic (2-3) 79-63.

Behind No. 1 USA, China earned Group B's No. 2 seed for the medal round, followed by No. 3 Spain and No. 4 Czech Republic; while No. 5 New Zealand and No. 6 Mali will not advance.

Contested on Aug. 19, the medal round quarterfinal match ups will feature China (B2) playing Belarus (A3) at 2:30 p.m.; Australia (A1) will face Czech Republic (B4) at 4:45 p.m.; the USA (B1) meets South Korea (A4) at 8:00 p.m.; and Russia (A2) meets Spain (B3) at 10:15 p.m. All times listed are local Beijing time, which is 12 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time.

In semifinal play on Aug. 21, the winner of China versus Belarus will play the winner of Australia versus Czech Republic; while the winner of Russia versus Spain will play the winner of USA versus South Korea. The quarterfinal losers will exit the tournament. Semifinal game times will be determined following quarterfinal play on Aug. 19. The gold and bronze medal games will be played on Aug. 23 at 10 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., respectively.

Donovan is 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, and now own a 47-3 (.940) overall record in eight Olympic appearances (the United States chose not to participate in the 1980 Olympic Games).