July 31, 2003
SIBENIK, Croatia -- After holding a four-point lead at halftime, and with the help of 14 points apiece from Seimone Augustus (Louisiana State / Baton Rouge, La.) and Nicole Ohlde (Kansas State / Clay Center, Kan.), the USA Young Women's National Team (4-1) advanced to the medal quarterfinals round after defeating host Croatia (2-3) 83-58 on Wednesday night in Sibenik, Croatia.
"We wanted to come out and play intense and get ready for the medal round games," said Augustus. "And what better way to do that than against the home team with a home town crowd. At halftime coach Foster said that we needed to pick it up, we were letting them stay around, they were hanging with us when they shouldn't have been. We needed to focus on getting ready for the medal round games and the second half prepared us for that."
The USA, which finished tied with Brazil and France after posting identical 4-1 records, finished in third place in Group A as a result of FIBA's tie-breaking formula (point differential between tied teams). France finished as the top team in Group A, Brazil finished second, the USA third and Croatia fourth. All four teams will advance to the medal quarterfinals round, while the Czech Republic (1-4) and South Korea (0-5) will play for 9-12 place. The USA will face Australia (4-1), second place finishers in Group B, on Friday, August 1 at 2:15 p.m. (8:15 a.m. EDT) for the right to advance to the medal semifinals.
"We weren't moving our feet, we were making decisions based on U.S. basketball. In the States we penetrate to get to the basket, in Europe a lot of times people penetrate to draw the defense and kick back to the three-point shooter. In the first half we were overreacting to the ball, allowing them to them to kick back to their three-point shooters. In the second half I told them to be more accountable to the ball, keep the ball in front of them. We obviously did a better job of that in the second half.
"Australia plays as hard as anybody here," added Foster on the USA's next opponent. "They have a lot of pride in who they are and I think that's a good team for us to have to play against."
After jumping out to an 11-0 lead to start the game, it seemed as if the USA might run away with it from the beginning. However, Croatia came back on a 7-2 run and with 2:53 remaining in the quarter trailed 13-7. The U.S. scored the game's next seven points, earning a 20-7 advantage at 1:24. But Croatia would not go away quietly and closed out the quarter on a 7-0 spurt to pull within six, 20-14, after 10 minutes of play.
With 5:47 to go before the half the score was still separated by six points, 30-24, before the USA upped its lead to 35-24 with 4:44 to go. Again Croatia fought back and with 2:28 left in the half closed to 35-32. By halftime, all that separated the USA and Croatia were four points, 40-36.
The game opened up in the third quarter as the Americans went on a 22-7 tear and at the end of three periods the game was safely in hand, 62-41. Croatia managed to cut it to two, 43-41, in less than a minute of play, but the USA fired off 12 straight points to gain a 55-41 advantage at 4:03. Shawntinice Polk (Arizona / Hanford, Calif.) kicked off the run with two straight buckets, followed by another four points from Augustus. On Croatia's next trip down the court Augustus came away with a steal, which resulted in a Cappie Pondexter (Rutgers / Chicago, Ill.) layup. The run ended on a Alana Beard (Duke / Shreveport, La.) steal and jumper and with 4:03 to go in the quarter the USA was in front 55-41. By the end of the third quarter the game was well in hand, 62-43. The USA outscored Croatia 21-15 in the fourth quarter and registered its fourth win.
"We expected them to play like that," said Ohlde. "Because throughout the tournament Croatia's been getting some wins, hanging in tough and they were in front of their home crowd. So we expected them to come out and play us aggressively, which was what happened in the first half. We came out in the second half aggressively, getting into our spots and doing the things necessary to get a win, doing the things we're capable of doing."
In addition to their 14 points, Augustus collected a game high seven steals and Ohlde grabbed a game high eight rebounds.
The USA dominated in every aspect of the game. The squad outrebounded Croatia 37-16, was credited for 19 steals and shot 42.9 percent (33-77 FGs) from the field, while limiting Croatia to 36.5 percent (19-52 FGs).
Foster is being assisted by collegiate head coaches Kathy Delaney-Smith of Harvard University (Mass.) and Felisha Legette-Jack of Hofstra University (N.Y.).
In the other preliminary round Group A play, Brazil (4-1) defeated the Czech Republic (1-4) 87-59, while France (4-1) downed South Korea (0-5) 68-43. Closing out Group B undefeated was Latvia (5-0) with an 81-79 close call over China (2-3), Australia (4-1) trounced Tunisia (0-5) 70-32 and Russia (3-2) edged Argentina (1-4) 63-60.