Olympic Recap: USA vs Canada

Stifling defense from the U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team (6-0) held Canada (2-4) to just 30.2 percent shooting from the field (16-53 FGs) and forced 26 turnovers as the USA cruised to a 91-48 win to move on to the semifinals of the 2012 Olympic Games on Tuesday afternoon at the Olympic Park Basketball Arena in London, England.

On Aug. 9, the USA will play Australia (5-1), which advanced after beating China (3-3) 75-60. The game will be played at 5 p.m. (12 p.m. EDT), while the other semifinal will be contested at 9 p.m. (4 p.m. EDT) and will feature the winners of tonight’s final two quarterfinals games, which includes Turkey (4-1) versus Russia (3-2) and France (5-0) versus Czech Republic (2-3).

In its historic quest for a fifth-straight Olympic gold medal, the USA women currently are riding a 39-game Olympic winning streak, which began exactly 20 years ago today with the USA’s 1992 Olympic bronze medal victory over Cuba.

“Going into the game, we as coaches were very aware that every game that Canada has played in this tournament, two or three possessions in each of those games could have affected the game,” said Geno Auriemma, USA and University of Connecticut head coach. “They were in every game to the end, and their style of play makes you play at their pace, gets you caught up in their style of ball control and limiting how many opportunities you get. So we talked a lot about how we wanted to create the tempo that we wanted and I think right from the beginning we did that, and it just continued the whole game. I thought our defense has been as good as it’s been at any time since the tournament started, so I was really pleased, really happy with the way our players played today.”

The balanced U.S. attack, which included 29 assists on 35 made field goals, featured 15 points and four assists from Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury); 12 points apiece from Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky) and Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks), who also grabbed seven rebounds; and 11 points each from Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream) and Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx), who added seven rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Dominate in nearly every statistical category, the USA outrebounded Canada 48-31 and tallied 33 points off of 26 turnovers, 48 points in the paint, 21 second-chance points and 20 points on the break.

“Yeah, that really needs to be our focus, and I think, with USA Basketball, we always talk about the points and how many offensive-minded players we have, but that’s the flipside when you play for the national team,” Taurasi said of the team’s defense. “Everyone becomes a great defensive player. That’s one thing that everyone takes a lot of pride in.”

The USA also struggled with its shooting from the field in the first quarter, making just one shot in its first seven tries. Canada fared much worse, committing seven turnovers in the first stanza and four in the first two minutes alone.

“Even though we missed a couple of shots in the beginning, we can come back and make shots so fast and we know we can score at will even though we may miss a few shots,” said McCoughtry. It is the defense that’s going to be the determining factor for the future games.”
Fouled on a 3-pointer, Taurasi sank her free throws and Moore nailed a three at 7:34 to put the USA in the lead 6-2. Each team scored once more before the USA put together an 11-0 run to lead 19-4 after a fast break bucket from McCoughtry off of a Taurasi assist. Canada ended the first period scoring the final four points to cut the advantage to 19-8 at the first break.

Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever) scored six points for the USA in the first four minutes to counter four from Canada, and the scoreboard read 25-12 at 6:14. From there, Canada managed just two field goals, including one 3-pointer and a runner to beat the buzzer, as well as four free throws, due to the relentless U.S. defense. Meanwhile, the U.S. offense put up 17 points, including a streak of nine unanswered to head to the locker room at halftime leading 42-21.

“Whenever you get scored on it’s a pride thing, Augustus said. “We want to try and go out and represent well. Represent ourselves well, our families well and the United States of America. Defense helps us with our offense, and when we get stops on defense it leads to easy baskets on the offensive end.”

In the second half, the USA pounded the ball inside rather than settling for jump shots and it paid off huge. One of the USA’s largest runs of the game came in the third quarter, a 16-0 spurt that began with a driving three-point play from Taurasi at 4:27 and ended with free throws from Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx) at 37.9 with the USA in control 66-28. Canada made a shot from behind the arc before McCoughtry sank a jumper at the buzzer to help the U.S. head into the fourth quarter leading 68-31.

Canada managed its highest scoring period in the fourth quarter, but those 17 points were nearly equaled by another 16-0 U.S. run. After four points from Fowles, the scoreboard read 73-40 at 7:53. Fowles scored six more points during the red, white and blue’s streak that resulted in its largest lead of the game, 89-40, with a fast break bucket from Augustus at 2:46. Canada ended the run with a score at 2:02 and then sank two 3-pointers to help cut it to 91-48 as the buzzer sounded.

“Yeah, I kind of messed myself up in the first half,” Fowles said. “Coach wasn’t very pleased that I picked up two quick fouls, but I knew he was going to call my number again, so I just had to suck it up and go out there and play my game.”

Also today in quarterfinal action, Turkey meets Russia at 8 p.m. (3 p.m. EDT) while France will play Czech Republic at 10:15 p.m. (5:15 p.m. EDT).

The winners advance to the semifinals on Aug. 9, while the losers have completed their Olympic play. The gold medal game will be played on Aug. 11.

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