OLYMPIC UPDATE: USA Women's Basketball Secures Quarterfinal Berth In 93-55 Victory Over Spain

August 15, 2008
By ODU Athletics
ODU Sports

Aug. 15, 2008

Courtsey of USA Basketball

Watching a 19-4 first quarter lead dwindle to just five points at halftime, the defense of the 2008 U.S. Women's Olympic Team (4-0) buckled down in the second half while its offense heated up to help the red, white and blue roll to a 93-55 win over Spain (2-2) Friday night at Wukesong Arena in Beijing China.

Tina Thompson (Houston Comets) led five U.S. players in double figures with 17 points and seven rebounds; Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks) recorded a 14-point, 11-rebound double-double; Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks) tallied 13 points and five rebounds; Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) contributed 12 points and six rebounds; and Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky) scored 10 points.

"Great game, just what we were expecting from Spain," said USA head coach Anne Donovan. "Spain traditionally ights very hard. Really, once they get on a roll they ride that emotion, and they did that throughout the first half. I thought we regrouped at halftime and came back in the second half and really talked about defensive adjustments and getting back to what we're good at, which is team defense. And we did a much better job in the second half."

In the game's final 20 minutes, the USA allowed Spain just six made field goals in 21 attempts, while the American offense outscored Spain 54-21. The USA also forced 13 of Spain's 22 turnovers in the second half and collected seven of its 11 steals.

"At the end of the first quarter, as well as the beginning of the second quarter we had a lull where we weren't matching the intensity of Spain," Thompson said. "They're a team that plays on a lot of emotion and they were high emotionally. We don't ever want to get into a position where we're letting a team ride an emotional high like that and being so comfortable in their sets. In the second half, we talked about it. We didn't want them to come out as comfortable as they were at the end of the first quarter and in the second quarter because it would have been a long game for us."

Down 4-2 two minutes into the first period, seven consecutive points from Leslie sparked a 17-0 run that gave the USA a commanding 19-4 lead with 2:00 left in the quarter, forcing Spain to call its first timeout. The break served its purpose, however, and having shot just 1-of-11 from the field to that point, Spain sank four 3-pointers in the period's final 1:38 to help cut the U.S. lead to 22-17 after one. The long-ball barrage included two 3-pointers from its leading scorer Amaya Valdemoro, who finished with 17 points, and two from Anna Montanana.

Spain put the second period's first two points on the board to bring the score to 22-19. But a Leslie bucket at 9:27 again sparked the USA, which raced to six consecutive points, and a Thompson bucket with 7:58 on the clock improved the U.S. lead to 28-19. Spain twice cut the advantage to three points in the second period, but the USA responded each time, and paced by six points in the stanza from Parker, including an offensive rebound and putback to beat the halftime buzzer, the USA matched Spain's 17 points in the period, and the scoreboard read 39-34 as both teams headed to the locker room.

From there the USA defense shut down any hopes Spain had of another comeback. Opening with a 9-0 run, the USA tallied 23 points in the third period, including nine from Thompson, while its defense allowed Spain just three made baskets. With an additional three points from the free-throw line for Spain, the U.S. lead had grown to 18 points, 62-44, headed into the final stanza.

"We feel that if we get after it defensively it's going to translate into offense," said Kara Lawson (Sacramento Monarchs), who finished with five points, two rebounds and two assists. "We had some great performances tonight. Catchings was unbelievable. What she brought, the loose balls, the blocks, the tips, the way she locked up Valdemoro, who had given us problems in that stretch, I felt she completely changed the game for us on the defensive end."

The USA maintained its stifling defense for the game's final 10 minutes and again held Spain to just three made baskets in the fourth period, and 31 points from seven U.S. scorers to Spain's 11 brought the score to the final 93-55 tally.

In Wednesday's other preliminary play, Group A saw Lauren Jackson tally 30 points to propel Australia (4-0) past Latvia (1-3) 96-73; Russia (4-0) survived Brazil (0-4) 74-64 thanks to four players in double-figures; and Belarus (2-2) beat South Korea (1-3) 63-43 with the help of 15 points from Katsiaryna Syntsina.

In Group B, Czech Republic (2-2) crushed New Zealand (1-3) 90-59 thanks to 23 points from Hana Machova; and, behind 25 points from Lijie Miao, China (3-1) cruised past Mali (0-4) 69-48.

With four wins, the USA has secured a quarterfinal berth regardless of the outcome of its final preliminary round game against New Zealand at 10:15 p.m. (10:15 a.m. EDT, live on NBC and NBC HD) on Aug. 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, and now owns a 46-3 (.939) overall record in eight Olympic appearances (the United States chose not to participate in the 1980 Olympic Games).