Olympic Recap: USA vs Czech

Trailing 28-26 after the first quarter, the U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team’s (4-0) shooting warmed up and its defense buckled down to help push the U.S. to an 88-61 win over Czech Republic (1-3) in a 2012 Olympic Games preliminary round play at the Olympic Park Basketball Arena on Friday night in London, England.

“It was kind of a tale of two halves,” said Geno Auriemma, USA and University of Connecticut head coach. “In the first half we scored a lot of points and we gave up a lot of points. In the second half our defense was really, really good, especially defending the three. I thought we did a great job defending the three the entire second half. Offense isn’t going to be a problem for our team. It certainly wasn’t tonight; we’re scoring enough points.”

Shooting 4-of-8 from 3-point, Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) led all scorers with 18 points and tied the U.S. Olympic single-game record for 3-pointers attempted, a mark she reached twice before in 2004 and 2008.

Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun) added 16 points, including 12 points in the first half, to go with a game-high 15 rebounds, Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx) added 14 points and eight rebounds and Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever) finished with 10 points.

Outrebounding Czech Republic 62-39, including 27 offensive boards, the USA’s 62 team rebounds bettered the previous USA single-game record of 58 that was set against New Zealand in 2004.

“On a team like this, scoring is probably the least of anyone’s concern because we have so many great scorers,” Taurasi said. “You really have to do a lot on the other side of the basketball, so I’ve been more trying to do those things and then today I got some good looks. Sue found me a couple of times and they went in.” The USA struggled to find its shooting eye, shooting just 38.8 percent while attempting 90 field goals (35-90 FGs) to tie the U.S. Olympic record for field goals attempted, its rebounders cleaned up the misses to tally 24 second-chance points. Meanwhile, its defense held Czech Republic to an even lower 35.7 percent overall shooting and a dismal 28.6 percent from 3-point (6-21 3pt FGs).

Czech Republic jumped to a 10-0 lead to start the contest before the USA finally got on the scoreboard. Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), who finished with nine assists, found Moore for a 3-pointer and then a jumper to kick start a 13-2 run that also featured six points form Charles. The Czechs called a timeout at 4:52 with the USA owning its first lead of the game, 13-12. As the USA scored from the field, Czech sank four 3-pointers to retake a 26-25 lead with a 3-pointer at 1:08 that marked the last points of the quarter. In fact, the Czech Republic was 6-of-11 from deep in the first 10 minutes.

Moore tied the score at 26 apiece with a pull-up jumper at 8:17, but Czech responded right back. The lead changed hands three more times before the USA finally took control of the game. Trailing 32-31, Charles put the USA back on top for good with six straight points that were the start of a 17-6 U.S. run that closed the quarter with the Americans leading 48-38.

Thanks in part to the U.S. defense, the Czech’s shooting cooled off completely from behind the 3-point arc in the second period, shooting 0-of-4, while the USA shared the ball to record 13 assists on 18 made baskets in the first half.

“I think with some of these other teams were expected be winning by 20 in the first two minutes and that’s just not going to happen,” said USA veteran Bird. “Some of these teams are very good, well coached, great players. So for tonight what I think you saw was them come out and get a little hot there in the first couple of minutes and then we got back to it defensively which allowed us to score and get some easy baskets in transition.”

The inside duo of Charles and Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks) also was responsible for drawing seven Czech fouls in the first half, and while Czech Republic’s Petra Kulichova and Ilona Bugrova suffered from foul trouble, Burgrova fouled out early at 3:46 in the third quarter.

Taurasi kicked off the second half with a 3-pointer and then sank another at 6:10 to put the USA up 58-40. After two points from Czech Republic, the USA compiled its largest run of the game, a 10-0 spurt that began and ended with points from Charles off of an assist from Moore. Czech then tallied six unanswered points of its own before Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream) scored at 35.8 to put the USA ahead 70-47 headed into the fourth quarter.

With the game’s outcome firmly in hand, the USA outscored its European opponent 18-14 in the final period to end the game leading 88-61.

“I think we feel good,” Parker said. “Obviously we’re getting our team chemistry down and we’re playing well.”

Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky), for a third consecutive game, did not play due to a sore left foot and is listed as day-to-day.

Also today in preliminary round Group A, Croatia (1-3) earned its first win in Olympic women’s history against Angola (0-4) 75-56, and Turkey (3-1) handled China (3-1) 82-55.

In Group B, Australia (3-1) edged Russia (3-1) 70-66, Canada (2-2) beat Brazil (0-4) 79-73 and France (4-0) outlasted Great Britain (0-4) 80-77 in overtime.

The USA will wrap up preliminary round play against China at 4:45 p.m. (10:45 a.m. EDT) on Aug. 5. The quarterfinals take place on Aug. 7, the semifinals on Aug.9 and the gold medal game on Aug. 11.

“We’ll enjoy this one tonight and then get back at it tomorrow in practice and prepare for Sunday,” said Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx). “It’s an afternoon game so we’ve gotten kind of into this routine where we’re playing at 10:15 p.m., but now we’ll adjust back to playing in the afternoon and we’ll be ready to go.”

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