Olympic Recap: USA vs China

A three-point lead after the first quarter had ballooned to 25 points by halftime and continued to build as the U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team (5-0) raced to a record-setting 114-66 win over China (3-2) in 2012 Olympic Games preliminary round action on Sunday evening at the Olympic Park Basketball Arena in London, England.

Led by 22 points and four steals from Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), the USA featured six players in double-digit scoring and set U.S. Olympic records for assists with 33 dimes and field goals made with 52. Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), who finished with 16 points, six rebounds, six assists and five steals, shot 8-of-8 from the field to set a individual single-game mark for field goal percentage.

Additionally, after dribbling out its final possession, the USA tied its all-time Olympic single game scoring high of 114 points that had also been tallied against Spain in 1992.

“Today we came out really focused,” said Geno Auriemma, USA and University of Connecticut head coach. “I thought everyone of our players was really locked into what we were trying to do. And when Diana Taurasi plays the way she did, that is infectious; the entire team gets caught up in her and makes everybody on the team better.”

Finishing as Group A’s No. 1 seed, the USA will take on Canada (2-3), which concluded the preliminary round as the No. 4 seed in Group B (time TBD) in Tuesday’s quarterfinals. In its historic quest for a fifth-straight Olympic gold medal, the USA women currently are riding a 38-0 Olympic win streak.

“We feel good, we feel like we have improved every game a little bit,” Taurasi said. “And that’s what we, that’s what our goal for these pool play games, and now it’s time to play the real games where if you don’t bring your best effort you’re probably going home.”

Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun) and Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx), who grabbed seven rebounds, added 12 points apiece, and Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx) and Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks) each finished with 10. Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever) dished out seven assists.

The USA was a red-hot 62.7 percent from the field (52-83 FGs), helped by an incredible 82 points in the paint, 21 second-chance points and 30 points in transition.

“(We) just gotta keep it rolling from there,” Catchings said. “It felt like tonight we moved the ball really well. When we move the ball, you know from person to person, we get wide-open shots. And when we’re knocking down those shots, I mean it’s really hard to guard.”

China matched the USA score-for-score in the first period, and in fact led 6-2 early in the game. The duo of Taurasi and Charles were responsible for the USA’s next 14 points to help take the USA’s first lead, 16-14, at 4:53. China evened the score at 16-16 and then two more ties occurred at and 23-23 and 25-25. Trailing 28-25 with 1:31 remaining in the first, the USA closed out the period with a 6-0 run that included two fast-break buckets from McCoughtry to put the USA up 31-28 after the first period.

From the start of the second period, the USA was off and running, outscoring China 30-8 over in the stanza. The quarter started with a blocked shot from Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky), who had been sidelined due to a sore left foot for the previous three games, and included eight U.S. scorers overall and two 3-pointers from Taurasi, who finished with 16 first-half points. The U.S. trapping defense also was responsible in part for 10 steals and 15 Chinese turnovers.

“I felt like we came out and (were) ready to play,” Fowles said. “Like coach said, we (were) focused, we kind of had some let-ups by letting them shoot threes, so going into the half that was something we wanted to correct. And from there on out I felt like everybody played their part and contributed as a team.”

After shooting 1-of-4 from the field to start the game, the USA heated up to 61.4 percent (27-44 FGs) from the field and 62.5 percent (5-of-8 3pt FGs) from deep in the first half, and recorded 20 assists on 27 made field goals in the first 20 minutes.

Moore stole the ball and sank a 3-pointer to open the third quarter and help continue the USA’s blistering pace. A 15-2 run that began with a three from Taurasi, who hit 4-of-5 from 3-point in the game, put the USA ahead 86-42 when McCoughtry scored an offensive rebound at 3:00, and the streak included a crowd-pleasing alley-oop from Sue Bird (Seattle Storm) to Moore. Overall, the USA outscored China 33-12 in the period to take a 94-48 lead headed into the final 10 minutes.

China outscored the USA 20-18 in the fourth quarter as the Americas breezed in for the 114-66 victory.

China featured three players in double digits, including Nan Chen with 16 points Xiaoyn Song with 15 points and Zengyu Ma with 13.

“Now is when the real tournament starts; now it’s one and done and you have to come and play every night, you can’t have an off night unlike pool play where maybe you can and potentially recover from it,” Bird said. “There’s no recovering from losing in the quarters, semis or final. So it’s one and done now.”

Also today in preliminary round Group A, Czech Republic (2-3) clinched a quarterfinal berth as a No. 4 seed with a win over Angola (0-5), which finished its Olympic play as the No. 6 seed in Group A, while Turkey (4-1) won against Croatia (1-4) 70-65 to advance as the No. 2, with Croatia out of contention at No. 5.

In Group B, France (5-0) remained perfect with a 65-54 win over Russia (3-2) as the teams finished as the No. 1 and No. 3 seeds, respectively. Australia (3-1) downed Canada (2-2) 72-63, finishing as the No. 2 and No. 4 seeds in Group B, respectively, while Great Britain (0-4) will play Brazil (0-4) in tonight’s 10:15 p.m. game, but neither team will advance to the quarterfinals as the match is a contest to finish fifth and sixth in the pool. The quarterfinal matchups will be Turkey against Russia, France versus Czech Republic and Australia against China. Game times and the order of games are still to be determined.

Winners of the quarterfinal games will square off in the semifinals on Aug. 9, and the gold medal game will be played on Aug. 11.

Auriemma is assisted by DePaul University’s Doug Bruno, Jennifer Gillom of the Washington Mystics and Marynell Meadors of the Atlanta Dream.