Aug. 1, 2003
SIBENIK, Croatia -- Behind a balanced scoring attack that saw four players score in double digits, the USA Young Women's National Team (5-1) advanced to the medal semifinals of the 2003 FIBA World Championship Young Women after defeating Australia (4-2) 80-56 on Friday afternoon in Sibenik, Croatia. Christi Thomas checked in for a team high 13 points and seven rebounds, while Seimone Augustus contributed 11 points.
The USA will face France (5-1) on Saturday at 6:45 p.m. (12:45 p.m. EDT) for the right to advance to the gold medal contest. France defeated China 76-57 in the second quarterfinal game today. Both teams met on the first day of competition and the U.S. earned a 56-48 victory. In other quarterfinals action, Brazil (4-1) and Russia (3-2) face off at 6:45 p.m. and the 9:00 p.m. contest will feataure Latvia (5-0) against host Croatia (2-3).
"We've been talking about what we want to get done here, talking about our depth and level of play," said USA and Ohio State University head coach Jim Foster. "Today some people on the bench really, really played well. Seimone (Augustus) is a starter, but she's been playing progressively better as this tournament has gone on. Tanisha Wright (Penn State / West Mifflin, Pa.) came off the bench and did some very solid things for us from a defensive point of view. Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota / Hutchinson, Minn.) came in and helped us maintain our tempo. Cappie Pondexter (Rutgers / Chicago, Ill.) probably played her best game of this tournament today. Some of our starters didn't have a great day, but our bench ... Christi Thomas was also terrific off the bench. Our depth really paid off."
Opening the do-or-die contest with the winner advancing to the medal semifinals and the loser playing for no better than fifth place, the U.S. stormed out to a 24-8 upper hand to start the game. At the outset neither team was able to convert a basket and it took an Augustus layup at 7:47 to get the game's first points on the scoreboard. Augustus' bucket sparked an 8-2 U.S. run which ended with 4:36 on the clock. By the 2:56 mark the Americans still held a six-point lead, 12-6 Then, fueuled by a stingy defense which allowed only one Ausrtalian bucket with two seconds to go in the quarter, the USA scored 12 consecutive points, including five points and a steal from Whalen, to close out the quarter ahead 24-8.
"We had to come out intense and ready to play because we played the Australians twice (in Boston) already,' said Thomas, who had nine points by halftime. "We were kind of familiar with them and we needed to come out and play USA ball. It's really hard to keep up the intensity after taking a lead like we did, you really have to keep your focus because Australia's a team that never gives up. We knew that going into this today. We had to keep our focus and keep pushing and extending our lead."
The Australians managed to outscore the U.S. 20-18 in the second quarter, thanks in large part to four straight threes from Michele Musselwhite, and as the halftime buzzer rang the United States was in the lead 42-28. During the first half the Aussies shot an uncharisteric 29.0 percent (9-31 FGs) from the field, while the U.S. scorched the nets for 56.7 percent (17-30 FGs), including 71.4 percent (5-7 3pt FGs) from 3-point. Further, all 10 of Australia's turnovers came from U.S. steals, while the USA turned the ball over just five times.
By the 7:27 mark in the third quarter the USA's lead was 21 points, 49-28, punctuated by five points from Augustus. The Aussies outscored the United States 12-4 over the next 5:10 and at the 2:17 mark the USA's lead had dwindled to 53-43. However, the USA finished the quarter strong partially due to Wright, who aided in four points, including a pair of free throws and a steal and at the end of three the USA was ahead 59-43. With 8:34 remaining in the game the U.S. had reclaimed a 20-point margin, 65-45, and settled in for the eventual semifinal berth and 80-56 victory.
In addition to Augustus and Thomas, Pondexter scored 10 points after shooting a perfect 5-of-5 and Whalen also notched 10.
The U.S. finished shooting 50.0 percent (30-60 FGs) from the field and limited Australia to 28.8 percent (19-66 FGs) overall. Edging the Aussies on the glass 32-29, the United States forced 17 Australian turnovers. Additionally, the USA's defense held Australia's third leading scorer (9.5 ppg. through five games) scoreless on the day.
Michele Musselwhite and Hollie Grima scored 18 and 15 points, respectively for their side.
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 consolation play, Argentina (2-4) beat South Korea (0-6) 67-58 and the Czech Republic (2-4) ran past Tunisia (0-6) 83-28.
JIM FOSTER, USA and Ohio State University head coach
On the team's communication against Australia:
"Our communication has improved just about every time we've stepped out on the floor here. It's really important because we played Australia twice before and they made adjustments relative to those two games. You don't know what's coming at you and if you're not talking you're in big trouble. But we really, really talked well and made great adjustments.
On going up against France in the semifinal contest:
"I think they're a very good defensive team and much like Australia, a very physical team. They're a tad bit more athletic than Australia, so we have to be able to deal with the physical aspects of the game. And hopefully cause some problems on their offensive end with our defenses, which I think we did the first time we played them. We have to maintain that and get better offensively."