OLYMPIC UPDATE: Team USA Rolls Past Mali In Women's Basketball Action
Aug. 13, 2008
Courtsey of AP
Lisa Leslie set a U.S. Olympic record going 7-for-7 from the field as the women's team continued its unblemished run through the Beijing Games with a 97-41 victory against Mali.
Leslie finished with 16 points as the U.S. won its 28th straight Olympic contest; the last loss was against the Unified Team in the semifinals of the 1992 Barcelona Games. The Americans have run over their first three opponents winning by an average of 47 points. They routed the Czech Republic, China, and now Mali.
"We continue to stress our defense and really work hard at that end of the floor," U.S. coach Anne Donovan ('83) said.
Katie Smith (2000) and Nikki McCray (1996) held the record for highest field goal percentage, each going 6-for-6 from the field.
"Another record?" Leslie said with a smile. "Oh well, records are meant to be broken. It feels good, but we just wanted to get the win. We wanted to come out and perform well."
The U.S. plays Spain next on Friday.
"They are getting better each game, and what you can expect from Spain is -- they are athletic, they play with a lot of passion and energy and feed off it," U.S. coach Anne Donovan said. "We've played them quite a bit through the years and we know we'll have to play well to move on to the next game."
Mali was missing it's top player Hamchétou Maïga-Ba ('02) of the Houston Comets, who injured her ankle in a loss to the Czech Republic on Monday. Even with Maïga-Ba , the winless Mali team would have been hard-pressed to be competitive against the U.S.
However, for a brief two-minute stretch in the first quarter Mali gave its fans something to cheer about. Trailing 7-0, Mali rattled off eight straight points, hitting two deep 3-pointers. Aminata Sininta's 3 with 5:34 left in the period gave Mali an 8-7 lead and forced U.S. coach Anne Donovan to call a timeout.
"She wasn't happy," U.S. forward Diana Taurasi said. "We needed to get focused and start playing better."
The numerous Mali fans in attendance started snapping pictures of the overhead scoreboard and cheering their team's lead.
"I said to my assistant coach, maybe the lights will go out now and it could be over," Mali coach Jose Ruiz said with a smile.
It didn't last long as the Americans responded with a 17-4 run to close the quarter as seven different players scored. The U.S. (3-0) continued the spurt scoring the first eight points of the second quarter to build the advantage to 32-12 and led 51-28 at the half. It was only that close as Mali hit five 3-pointers, including three by Sininta.
"Man they hit some bombs," U.S. co-captain Katie Smith said. "They were hitting from all over the court."
The U.S. outscored Mali 25-5 in the third quarter and the only suspense left was whether Candace Parker, Leslie, or Sylvia Fowles would become the first woman to dunk in Olympic competition. The trio have all dunked in either college or the WNBA and Fowles was throwing down slams in pregame warmups to the delight of the crowd.
Sininta led Mali (0-3) with 13 points.
Seimone Augustus added 12 points for the U.S., which had five players score in double figures. Tina Thompson, Parker, and Cappie Pondexter each had 10.
In other games Wednesday, Spain beat the Czech Republic 74-55, Russia topped Belarus 71-65, Latvia edged Brazil 79-78, China beat New Zealand 80-63, and Australia routed South Korea 90-62.