U.S. Head Coach Geno Auriemma said earlier this week that he was still waiting for a big game from Diana Taurasi. He got one Wednesday night, as the Phoenix Mercury star and last years WNBA MVP put up 24 points to lead Team USA to an 83-75 win over the reigning World Champions, Australia.
The game was being played for nothing but pride, as both teams had already secured their berths in the Womens World Basketball Championship quarterfinals, which tip off in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, on Friday. But you couldnt tell it on the court, as both teams, previously unbeaten in the tournament, battled unrelentingly to secure the top seed out of Ostravas Group E.
Coach Geno Auriemma tweaked Team USAs starting line-up for tonights game against Belarus starting Candice Dupree (Phoenix Mercury) in lieu of Swin Cash (Seattle Storm) and Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun) in place of Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky). The move paid immediate dividends, as Team USA overcame the spate of slow starts that have marked its performance here to date.
This game saw the U.S. come strong out of the gate. A little more than two minutes into the opening period, Dupree launched a 17-0 run with a short jumper in the paint, followed by a break-away lay-up off a Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) steal and a feed by Sue Bird (Seattle Storm). By the time Belarus recovered its footing nearly five minutes later, the Americans were already up, 23-6, with three minutes still to go in the opening period.
It was all downhill from there, as Team USA went on to close out the opening period, 37-11. For the rest of the game, Belarus could do little more than try to staunch the bleeding. While the pace of the U.S. scoring slowed a bit, the two teams went to the locker room with the Americans up 30, 58-28, and by games end, Team USA had again surpassed the century mark with a 107-61 victory.
OSTRAVA, Czech Republic (Sept. 27, 2010) -- Leading 19-14 after the first quarter, a monster 28-11 advantage in the second period propelled the USA Basketball Women's World Championship Team (4-0) to a 87-46 win over Canada (1-3) in the second round of the 2010 FIBA World Championship on Monday evening in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
The USA's defense starred in the game, forcing 32 turnovers and collecting 20 steals, which it converted into 38 second-chance points and 31 points off of fast-break opportunities.
Linsday Whalen (Minnesota Lynx) was the USA's leading scorer with 16 points as 11 of 12 U.S. players recorded points in the win, including six with nine or more.
To describe it as a slow start understates the case. Considerably.
For the first eight minutes of the opening period of Saturdays preliminary round match against France, the United States scored only three points. Two on a short jumper by Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky) in the paint, and one by Swin Cash (Seattle Storm) from the free-throw line.
In that same eight-minute span, the U.S. shot just one-of-eight from the field (14.1 percent) and one-of-two from the charity stripe. Meanwhile, the Americans suffered from loose handles, turning the ball over six times -- seven, if you count the offensive foul by Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream).
Les Bleues seized the opportunity to take an 8-5 lead, one they did not relinquish until the final 14 seconds of the period, when Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun) dropped in a jumper from low in the paint to make it 11-10, giving Team USA the lead for good, as the U.S. slugged its way to an 80-61 win over the European champions to advance undefeated to the second round of the 2010 FIBA Women's World Basketball Championships.
Team USA continued their quest to recapture the Womens World Basketball Championship with a 108-52 win over Senegal. What can you say about a mismatch this lopsided?
The U.S. suffered a short spate of cold shooting for the first few minutes, as shots struck iron and rattled off the rim. Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) took a feed off a Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky) steal, and took it to the hoop to notch the first basket by either side roughly a minute in.
Senegals Fatou Dieng promptly answered in kind with a lay-up at the other end, and after Sylvia Fowles missed a pair from the charity stripe, Aya Traore netted a jumper to give the Africans their first and only lead of the game at 4-0. Meanwhile, Team USA continued to heave up one miss after the other, going one-for-seven from the field over the first three minutes.
It would be a short-lived triumph for the Africans, however.
Basketball in Greece has been a major sport for several years now but, like anywhere else, national media do not cover women basketball that much. And thats a shame because the Greek women basketball national team has been present in all major European competitions since 2001. No doubt that the 2004 Olympics in Athens have been a boost for the womens game and the Greek women basketball clubs have reached higher levels in FIBA-Europe clubs competitions in the last few years too. Major Greek league clubs have attracted excellent foreign players in the last few years: LaToya Davis, Sheryl Swoopes, Ruth Riley of the USA, Marina Kress of Belarus, Gabriela Marginean of Romania, Gintare Petronyte of Lithuania, etc.
While the Greeks had already qualified for the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women as well as next year's European Championship in Poland by virtue of their fifth-place finish at the Eurobasket 2009, the selected NT players have had time and spent the whole summer for the preparation of the world tournament.
Before the summer, a rumor saying that Greece would likely be to have more firepower this summer was relayed by www.fiba.com in mid-June. The FIBA web site mentioned that Euroleague veteran Katie Douglas was in the process of getting Greek citizenship. The 31-year-old Douglas of the Indiana Fever, an American, is married to Vasilis Giapalakis (2005), a Greek, who is her agent. Played overseas two in Greece, as well as Lithuania, Spain, Russia and Turkey. Next season will be Douglas second stint with Spanish club Ros Casares (involved in the Euroleague) after previously playing for the club in 2007-08. Missas told media last April that he was close to getting Douglas a Greek passport.
Greece was already set to add US-born Stephanie Murphy to their squad. Murphy is a 1.92 m. power forward/center at Boston College in the Atlantic Coast Conference who averaged 27.4 minutes, 11.7 points and 6.4 rebounds and earned honorable mention all-ACC last season for the Eagles. Murphys mother is Greek.
The addition of these two players in order to have more offensive firepower finally did not occur and the team has been built around Greek guard Evanthia Maltsi. Despite being labelled as an underdog at the World Championship for Women, Greece remains a rival for each team despite probably being in Europe the smallest team. Average height is low indeed and this could be an advantage for Greeces opponents.
There was surprising unanimity in the Full Court Press WNBA awards panel this year, as the only differences of opinion were on the last spot on the second team, Coach of the Year and Most Improved.
Of course, things were made easier by FCPs long-standing policy of handing out the awards for the entire season, including playoffs. That certainly clarifies some awards, and also acknowledges the reality that the postseason counts for just as much, if not more, than the first 34 games.
The French Women's National Team is currently ranked eighth in the world. But they're aiming for better.
The last time the French medalled at the Women's World Championships, it was 1953, when France took the bronze. But having captured the European Championship in 2009 in Latvia, dethroning traditional European powers Russia, the Czech Republic and Spain (see Full Court's report, Eurobasket 2009: Vive La France!), Les Bleues, the French National Team, have their eyes on the medal stand at the upcoming FIBA World Basketball Championship for Women, set to tip off in Brno and Ostrava, Czech Republic, on Friday, September 24. To that end, the team set up a rigorous preparation campaign beginning last March, featuring 13 scrimmage games against opponents from every continent but Oceania.
A strong preliminary group of 21 players was selected by new French coach Pierre Vincent over the summer and kicked off their training with a trip to lAlpe dHuez, a place usually better known for its spectacular Tour de France mountain cycling stage arrivals than as a basketball camp resort. Despite strange situations in the beginning of the French squads training camp in the Alps, les Bleues had a very serious preparation and actually never seemed so strong before. All prospective members of the French team participated in the training camp with the exception of 23-year-old center Sandrine Gruda of the WNBA's Connecticut Sun, who was expected to join the group once her WNBA season was over.
Never had the French looked so strong as when they headed into this year's run-up to the World Championships on a program that took the team through the regions of Normandie (Mondeville), le Nord (Villeneuve dAscq) and Picardie (Amiens and Beauvais), all of which welcomed les Bleues for their pre-championship tournament training. On paper at least, none of the opponents lined up for the exhibition tour, with the possible exception of Brazil, seemed any real match for France, or to be more precise the French National Team of 2009 that won the Eurobasket championship title.
Alas, that's when the woes of attrition began to set in.
Four years ago, just before he 2006 FIBA Women's World Basketball Championships were going to begin, our overview of the changing landscape of European and international womens basketball was titled, Spain Emerging as a Future European Power.
Today, as tip-off for the 2010 FIBA World Championship draws near, that assessment has never been so true. Spain remains a very atypical favourite team in the world competition. Spanish Head Coach Juan Ignacio Hernandez can count on very strong guards and forwards like Amaya Valdemoro, Silvia Dominguez, Laia Palau, Nuria Martinez and Elisa Aguilar, and he now has the post player Spanish teams of the past were missing in WNBA star Sancho Lyttle.
Any opponent would be wise watch out for the Spaniards who have lost one and won one against reigning world champion Australia in recent exhibition play, making the case that under the right circumstances, they can beat anyone. The Spanish have an uncanny ability to take advantage of their opponents' weaknesses and a knack for finishing the job once they gain the advantage. Competitors who look past them will do so at their own peril.