Okay, there was the scoreboard, if you could make it out behind the sea of Czech flags, clearly proclaiming, "USA 89, Czech Republic 69."
But you really couldn't tell it on the court.
Sure, the Americans were happy, especially the three players -- Sue Bird, Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi -- who still carry the bitter memory of the U.S. loss to Russia in the semifinals of the last World Championships, 2006, in Brazil. But careful to give no occasion for offense by overdoing their public celebration of the victory, they quietly hugged one another, congratulated their opponents, and later stepped to the medal podium to receive their gold medals and the FIBA Championship trophy with great dignity and poise.
But to look at the Czech team, giddy with excitement, practically doing backflips over their first-ever Worlds silver medal, you would have thought they'd won it all. (For that matter, the Spaniards seem pretty ecstatic about their bronze -- also a first.)
"The reason, I think, is simple," said Czech captain Hana Horakova. "Before this tournament, nobody would think that our team could press into the four best world teams, not speaking about winning a world championship medal. This is a great success for us. It is a celebration that is very much deserved and it definitely will go on tonight."
"I've won many things in my career, but I never expected to win this," said Spanish captain Amaya Valdemoro, who wrapped herself and several of her teammates in a Spanish flag passed down from the stands by one of the spectators and paraded around the stadium. "This is big for Spanish basketball and for the generation that are coming into the national team."
Then came the announcement of the MVP and tournament All-Star team. From the team that had not just beaten, but dominated, every opponent it took on over the past 10 days, only one player, Taurasi, was selected for the All-Tournament team.
And when fiesty Czech point guard Horakova stepped forward to accept the hardware as MVP of the tournament, one had to wonder just how the (overwhelmingly European) media panel given ballots defined "Most Valuable."
Both Team USA and the hosting Czech Republic advanced to Sunday's gold-medal game of the 2010 Women's World Championships with semifinal wins Saturday.
One team got there the easy way; the other team took a more difficult path. Czech Republic rode the wave of hometown support, scrapping back and forth with Belarus in an extremely tight game. A Czech ballhandling error, followed by a foul, late in the fourth quarter tied the game at 68 apiece at the final buzzer and send it into extra minutes.
The Czechs outscored Belarus 13-9 in overtime to take the 81-77 win and advance to the gold medal game for the first time in history.
In contrast, Team USA romped to a 106-70 win over a Spanish team that was playing without star center Sancho Lyttle, who was taken to the hospital last night after injuring her back in the third quarter of Spain's overtime win over France. Whether she can play in Sunday's bronze medal match remains a game-time decision.
Team captain Amaya Valdemoro, the hero of the win over France, saw limited minutes in Saturday's semifinal game due to "fatigue." The clear inference from Spanish Coach Jose Hernandez is that once he saw the U.S. get off to such a strong start (29-16 in the first quarter alone), he opted to rest his key players for tomorrow's medal game, a game he felt he had at least some chance of winning.
Rounding out a day of upsets in the Womens World Basketball Championships quarterfinals (save for Team USAs 106-44 win over Korea), Spain forced the European champion, France, into overtime before stealing a 74-71 win. It will be the first-ever appearance for Spain, which has five European championship medals to its credit, in the semifinals of the World Championships.
In what was by far the most evenly matched pairing of the day, both teams struggled for the first few minutes, before Spain headed out to an early, 11-6, lead behind seven points from Amaya Valdemoro, who had the hot hand both from the perimeter and inside the paint.
Whether it will be the United States or another country, one thing is certain: The world will crown a new womens basketball champion on Sunday. Before the president of their country and a house packed to the rafters with festive, horn-blowing, drum-banging countrymen, the Czech Republic took down the reigning champion, 79-68, today in KV Arena, Karlovy, in a game that proclaims a new era in international womens basketball.
Czech coach Lubor Blazek said afterward that despite having the utmost respect for Australia and its players, Lauren Jackson (Seattle Storm) in particular, he believed that the Czechs could beat the powerhouse and he mapped out a plan to do it. More importantly, his players bought in to the plan; they too believed they could pull off the upset, and pulled off Blazeks strategy just as he had written it.
Team USA was watching in the final minutes as previously undefeated Russia went down to defeat at the hands of fourth-seeded Belarus today. The lesson wasnt lost on the Americans.
We didnt want to start the game and not be ready, and not give 100 percent, said U.S. and University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma.
We knew we it didnt matter [who we were playing ], said Tamika Catchings. (Indiana Fever) Seeing what happened and knowing that if you don't come out ready to play straight from the beginning, it can have an effect on the whole game. Like coach said, for us we wanted to come out with a lot of energy right off the bat and everybody built off of that.
Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream) and Maya Moore (University of Connecticut senior) echoed the sentiment. We just know that looking today at the Russia-Belarus game, you can't just turn it on turn it off, you have to be prepared, said McCoughtry.
Something Coach told us in the locker room today, which was very true, was the fact that we've had our moments, our quarters, our halves, over periods of time we've played great, but we haven't really put together a whole game yet. That's what we were trying to do today, get one step forward, one step closer to putting together a complete game because that is what we are going to need down the stretch, Moore added.
And thats exactly what they did. Auriemma turned once again to Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun) and Candice Dupree (Phoenix Mercury) to round out his starting line-up of Catchings, Sue Bird (Seattle Storm) and Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury). Charles won the opening tip and Catchings dropped it in at the opposite end to launch a 6-0 U.S. run over the first two minutes of the opening period. They never let up until the final buzzer sounded and the score stood, USA 106 - 44 Korea.
In breaking news, Belarus, the last-place finisher in Group E (Ostrava) pool play, has just upset previously undefeated Russia, the top seed out of Brno's Group F, by a decisive score of 70-53. Belarus held Maria Stepanova to just eight points (four of them in the final period), while Becky Hammon (San Antonio Silver Stars) led the way for Russia with 16 points.
"Yelena Leuchanka (Atlanta Dream) killed us inside," said Russia's Ilona Korstin. "We are very disappointed with the result and with [the] game we played today. ... We didn't play as a team but just as individuals trying to keep down the fire. It will be the first time in 10 years that we don't bring any medal home."
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.