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) and former University of Florida All-American DeLisha Milton-Jones 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.
Milton-Jones played five
minutes and collected one steal in the victory.
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
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.
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).
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,"
head coach Anne Donovan. "Spain
traditionally fights 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
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.
Game recap courtesy USA Basketball