Live from Press Row: USAB Showcase
USA Basketball Wins Showcase in Style
Final: USA 100, China 62
Candace Parker's layin during the final minute gave the USA Basketball Women's National Team an even 100 points in tonight's blowout win over the China National Team. Fans in Seattle got to see everything that makes the USA the world's preeminent women's hoops power. Six players scored double figures, three of them reserves. There was no drop-off whatsoever when Geno Auriemma went to his second unit. Reserve Maya Moore was the team's second-leading scorer with 15 points. The USA forced 25 turnovers and held a commanding 35-17 advantage on the glass.
This team isn't ready for London just yet. Turnovers (21 in all) were an issue as players tried to get familiar working with each other. And Auriemma must still sort out a rotation. However, we saw nothing tonight to discourage the notion that the USA is the heavy favorite to win what would be a fifth consecutive gold medal.
I think this was a really fun, special night for everybody who was able to attend. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Now it's time to turn our attention fully to the Storm's season. Tomorrow's preseason game against the L.A. Sparks at 2 p.m.() will kick off the final week of preparations for Opening Night next Friday against the Sparks (). Between them, stay tuned to StormBasketball.com as we preview the 2012 campaign from every angle and the Storm sets its final roster.
Looking Around the Crowd
Fourth Quarter: USA 91, China 57
With the USA's second unit continuing to expand the lead, let's look at some of the big names in attendance for tonight's game. Storm players are sitting courtside on the baseline, including Katie Smith, who was interviewed by Dick Fain during the first quarter about her experience playing for the USA in the Olympics. Head Coach Brian Agler is at center court with Karen Bryant, Lisa Brummel of Force 10 Hoops and WNBA President Laurel Richie. The assistant coaches are sitting with a familiar face: former Storm guard Sandy Brondello.
Shelden Williams of the NBA's New Jersey Nets is sitting near press row. He's here watching wife Candace Parker play for the USA and tomorrow for the Sparks in a preseason game against the Storm. The Japan National Team is also taking in tonight's game. They'll face the USA in a closed scrimmage tomorrow as the final part of this three-day training camp.
Second (Unit) to None
End Third Quarter: USA 78, China 49
As good as the USA's starting five has been tonight, I think the reserves have actually been more impressive. Swin Cash, Angel McCoughtry, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen have combined for 28 points and terrific pressure defense. Here's an interesting thought to consider: if the USA sent this group to London with other WNBA players as reserves, where would they finish?
USA Pouring It On
Third Quarter: USA 69, China 43
After few fouls calls in the first half, the USA is in the bonus with more than four minutes remaining in the third quarter. The free throws have helped the USA open up a 26-point lead. Tamika Catchings continues to lead the way for the USA with 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting.
The only negative for the USA was Diana Taurasi going down hard midway through the quarter. She got up favoring her left knee and asked out of the game - but not before blocking a shot despite her limited mobility. Taurasi received no medical attention on the bench, so it looks like she should be fine after a little break.
Drill Team Performance
Halftime: USA 52, China 33
As the players headed to the locker room, the Seattle Chinese Community Girls Dance Team took the floor for a performance to the delight of the crowd.
Halftime: USA 52, China 33
While I'm sure he has some quibbles with the execution, we've seen Geno Auriemma's vision for the USA Basketball Women's National Team come to life during tonight's first half. During the second quarter, the USA's depth and relentless pressure wore down a China team that began to commit turnovers in bunches - eight during the second quarter and 14 in all in the first half. Tamika Catchings alone has four of the USA's 10 steals, many of them for breakaway layups. She has a game-high 10 points and Diana Taurasi has nine. Five USA players have scored at least six points.
Second Quarter: USA 38, China 27
One interesting feature of this year's USA roster is that it's light on big and small players. The USA women have just two true point guards (Sue Bird and Lindsay Whalen) and two regular centers (Sylvia Fowles and Tina Chalres). Everyone else is capable of playing multiple positions in between. Geno Auriemma is exploiting that versatility tonight as he looks at lineup combinations that could be useful down the line. We've seen Diana Taurasi running the point for extended stretches, and with Charles sitting out tonight's game due to a groin strain, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones and Candace Parker have all gotten minutes in the middle These versatile lineups are particularly useful for pressuring full court, something the USA worked on yesterday in practice. Geno Auriemma said that since the USA's greatest strength is its depth, he wants to make use of that - and get more players on the floor - by speeding up the game.
End First Quarter: USA 29, China 21
After the slow start, the USA offense sharpened up considerably. The USA women did not turn the ball over once in the last four minutes of the quarter and also improved their shooting percentage to a robust 56.5 percent. China is shooting just 40 percent, yet has managed to stay in the game thanks to the three-point shot. Chinese players are a perfect 3-of-3 beyond the arc. Many Chinese players favor a set shot with their legs splayed. While it looks unorthodox, it's both accurate and often a quicker release, allowing China's players to shoot over the length of the U.S. defense.
Fun promotion during the quarter break as kids raced around a series of cones while wearing size 18 shoes. The winner picked up a pair of autographed Sue Bird shoes.
USA Spectacular Early But Not Sharp
First Quarter: USA 15, China 9
The first five-plus minutes of this game have looked about like what you'd expect from a team with two practices together since 2010,. The USA Women's National Team has shown its athleticism and top talent so far, including an 8-2 advantage on the glass. However, the offense has lacked flow at times, and turnovers have been an issue. The USA has four of them, as does China. That's why we're playing this game. Geno Auriemma has gone to his bench, bringing in Seimone Augustus, Swin Cash, Angel McCoughtry and Maya Moore. They're joined by Diana Taurasi in a lineup that is about the same size at every position, which is an interesting strategic wrinkle.
Lineups and Ovations
The USA will start the likely lineup for London: Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi at guard, Tamika Catchings and Candace Parker at forward and Sylvia Fowles in the middle. Tina Charles will not play tonight because of a groin strain, leaving the USA with 11 players in uniform.
Per FIBA tradition, the entire 12-player roster for both teams was introduced before the game. Every USA player got loud ovations - yes, including Western Conference rivals Candace Parker and Diana Taurasi - with the loudest saved for Sue Bird and former Storm teammate Swin Cash, playing her first game at KeyArena since being traded to Chicago. The teams also exchanged gifts, per international custom, before the playing of both national anthems.
Welcome back to KeyArena, where we've gathered for the first time in 2012 for a most unique opportunity to see the USA's best players representing their country. Tonight is the USA Basketball Women's National Team Showcase, as the USA takes on the China National Team in one of just two exhibitions these women will play in the United States before representing their country in the London Olympics.
We'll cover this game as if it was the Storm on the floor, although FIBA rules will make things a little different. Instead of the familiar mandatory media timeouts, each team gets two timeouts to be used in the first half and three for after halftime, so there won't be quite as many stoppages for blogging purposes. But we'll do our best to bring you the action on the floor and a sense of what's happening off of it.