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OLYMPIC UPDATE: Two Women's Basketball Alums Begin Olympic Quest

Courtesy: ODU Athletics
         
Release: August 09, 2008
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Aug. 9, 2008

USA: 97, Czech Republic: 57

Story Courtsey of USA Basketball

The 2008 U.S. Women's Olympic Team (1-0) overcame a slow start and an early 11-point deficit against the Czech Republic (0-1) to claim a 40-point, 97-57 victory in its opening game of the 2008 Olympics Saturday at Wukesong Arena in Beijing, China.

Led by 17 points from Diana Taurasi all 12 U.S. players scored in the game. In their Olympic debuts, Sylvia Fowles recorded a double-double of 16 points and 14 rebounds and Cappie Pondexter tallied 12 points; while three-time Olympic gold medalist Lisa Leslie collected 10 rebounds.

"(We're) glad to get the first one under our belts," said USA head coach Anne Donovan ('83). "We definitely didn't start off the way we wanted to. But everything is not going to go your way, and things are going to happen and (it's) how you respond. We came out of the timeout and responded immediately, didn't waste any time at all. At this stage of the game, I think we have 10 days in together, those kinds of things really please the coach, to see that they're still responsive, they're making adjustments on the fly."

After missing its first four shot attempts, the USA quickly fell behind 8-0 when a Taurasi jumper at 6:39 brought the score to 8-2. The basket didn't slow the Czech Republic, however, which had built a 17-10 lead with 3:15 remaining in the period.

It was a Leslie jumper from the top of the key at 2:53 that turned the tide in the USA's favor, kicking off a 12-0 scoring run that included points from five U.S. players. Kara Lawson (Sacramento Monarchs) followed Leslie's two points with a 3-pointer, stole the ball on the ensuing Czech possession and dished to Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks) on the fast break to tie the game at 17-17. The USA took its first lead, 19-17, when Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever) converted on an offensive rebound with 1:26 on the clock.

Holding a 22-17 advantage at the first break, the USA never again trailed.

"Czech Republic came out really strong and kind of dictated both sides of the ball," Taurasi said. "When they do that, they're a very tough team. Coach Donovan called timeout; kinda refocused on what we need to do, and I think we did a good job of responding and coming back. Holding strong in that first quarter then building from there. I think if anything the strength of today was how deep we are, bringing people off the bench, contributing, changing the game, the pace of it. We just have to build from this ... just one game, but good feelings from this game."

The Czech Republic opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer from Edita Sujanova to cut the U.S. lead to 22-20. But fueled by seven second-quarter points apiece from Taurasi and Pondexter, the USA outscored its opponent 27-14 in the period to bring the score to 49-31 at halftime.

The USA defense, which forced 27 turnovers and collected 13 steals, held Czech to just 13 points in the third and fourth quarters while tallying 48 more of its own, and the scoreboard read 97-57 as the buzzer sounded.

Eva Viteckova was the only Czech scorer to manage double digits with 12 points, while Jana Vesela recorded nine rebounds.

The USA controlled the interior on both ends of the floor, outrebounding Czech 41-32 and scoring 50 of its points in the paint, compared to the Czech Republic's 22.

"We've been working on our defense and obviously 27 turnovers kind of reflected that, that we forced," Donovan said. "I feel really good about the things that we're doing; feel great about the bench and the depth that we have. I just look forward to getting better, hopefully every night out.

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 USA women continue preliminary group play against host China on Aug. 11 at 8:00 p.m. (8:00 a.m. EDT); Mali at 10:15 p.m. (10:15 a.m.) 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 July 17.

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).

New Zealand: 74, Mali: 72

Former Lady Monarch Hamchétou Maïga-Ba ('02) led her native country with 18 points as her native Mali was edged out by New Zealand, 74-72, in a Group B prilimiary round game. Known as "Tanty" to many Lady Monarch fans, she played 36 minutes shooting 53 percent from the floor on 8-of-15 shooting. She also collected seven rebounds, three assists, and a steal.

New Zealand, ranked 16th in the world, had three players scoring in the double digits, but the Oceania runners-up still struggled to gain the upper hand against Mali. The game tied at 64-64 with 4:13 left in the final quarter. It was tight until reaching 74-72, when New Zealand's Angela Marino made the most of two free throws, ending the match 76-72.

Mali, ranked 21st in the world, qualified for its first ever Olympic Games at the 2007 FIBA Africa Championships, beating Cote d'Ivoire and a normally dominant Angola in the knockout stages and upsetting host Senegal in the final.

Maïga-Ba and Mali return to action on Monday, August 11th against the Czech Republic.

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