London Day Seven: USA Overcomes Slow Start

Kevin Pelton, | Aug. 3, 2012

Looking to experiment before his undefeated team reaches the knockout round of basketball competition in the London Olympics, Geno Auriemma experimented with the starting lineup on Friday against the Czech Republic. The result was a 10-0 start for the Czech Republic, yet the USA women still pulled away 88-61 to win and improve to 4-0 in group A.

Auriemma put Ajsha Jones and Maya Moore next to fixtures Sue Bird, Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi, giving the USA a smaller, more athletic group. While Jones had started the last game in place of Sylvia Fowles, who has missed the last three with a sore left foot, that was because a wardrobe issue prevented Tina Charles from taking Fowles' place.

Sue Bird during the USA's game against the Czech Republic.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images Sports

Bird handed out nine assists, the most she's ever had in an Olympic game.

The new-look lineup started with two turnovers and three missed shots while the hot Czech Republic used a pair of Eva Viteckova three-pointers to score the game's first 10 points. The USA settled down and, with Charles in place of Jones, used a 13-2 run to take the lead. However, the Czech Republic still took an advantage to the second quarter and led as late as the 6:36 mark of the period before the USA restored order. The Czech Republic scored just six points the rest of the half as the U.S. lead reached double figures.

The USA continued to clamp down defensively in the third quarter, holding the Czech Republic to nine points and extending the lead to 23. It ultimately got as large as 31 as the U.S. cruised to the finish line.

While the USA barely outshot the Czech Republic, making just 38.9 percent from the field, the Americans enjoyed a 20-shot advantage thanks to their dominance on the glass. The U.S. women pulled down 61 rebounds, the most the country has ever had in Olympic play, including 27 on the offensive glass. Charles (14) and Angel McCoughtry (11) had double-figure rebounds, while Lindsay Whalen grabbed nine and Moore eight.

Taurasi led the USA in scoring with 18 points, knocking down four three-pointers in eight attempts. Charles had 16 as part of a double-double, Moore scored 14 and Catchings added 10. Bird did not score on three shot attempts, but handed out nine assists, the most she's ever had in Olympic competition. Bird now has 45 career Olympic assists, tied with Lisa Leslie for fourth on USA Basketball's all-time leaderboard.

The U.S. women wrap up group play Sunday against China, which suffered its first loss Friday to Turkey in lopsided fashion.

USA 88, CZECH REPUBLIC 61: Box Score

AUSTRALIA 70, RUSSIA 66: Box Score

While the attention was all on Liz Cambage's dunk, Australia had to take care of business against a tough Russian squad that had won its first three games in London. The Opals did so by a 70-66 final thanks to two Cambage free throws with 41 seconds left on the clock and five Russian misses on its final possession.

Cambage's historic dunk - believed to be the first ever by a woman in Olympic competition, and her first in a game - with 6:14 left in the third quarter. In the midst of a half-court set, Cambage caught the ball beyond the free throw line, took two dribbles and soared in for a one-hand finish.

The dunk hardly demoralized Russia. While Australia scored three more points after a timeout to cap a 12-0 run, Russia pulled back within six points by the end of the third quarter. The Opals led throughout the fourth quarter, never by more than eight points. A Becky Hammon score with 50 seconds cut the lead to just two, and Cambage's free throws prevented Russia from ever getting the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead.

The win kept Australia in contention for first place in Group B. While France avoided an upset bid from Great Britain later in the day, winning in overtime, France must still beat Russia to keep Australia from forcing a three-way tie for first place with a victory Sunday against Canada.

Cambage paced Australia with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Suzy Batkovic added 15 off the bench and Jenna O'Hea scored 10. Storm star Lauren Jackson finished with nine points on just six shot attempts, snapping her 23-game streak that dated back to the 2000 Olympics. She remains 29 points away from tying Janeth Arcain's all-time Olympic scoring record.

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