July 29, 2003
SIBENIK, Croatia (courtesy USA Basketball) -- Putting on a defensive clinic, the USA Young Women's National Team (3-1) rebounded from its loss to Brazil and handed the Czech Republic (1-3) a 94-46 loss on Tuesday evening in Sibenik, Croatia. Receiving double-digit scoring efforts from five different players, including a game-high 12 points from Alana Beard (Duke / Shreveport, La.), who notched all of her points by halftime, the U.S. assured itself of advancing to the medal quarterfinals.
The USA has one game remaining and will face host Croatia (2-2), which fell to France (3-1) 81-52 today, to close preliminary round play on Wednesday night at 9:00 p.m. (3:00 p.m. EDT). The top four finishers in each preliminary round group will advance to the August 1 medal quarterfinals. Brazil (3-1) downed South Korea (0-4) 69-44 in today's other Group A game.
"The intensity of today and the unselfishness of today I really thought was terrific," said USA and Ohio State University head coach Jim Foster. "We had a lot of great ball movement, did a great job on the boards and made them take the kind of shots we wanted them to take, versus the kind of shots they would like to take. In its simplest forms, that's what it evolved into.
"Tomorrow night will be an opportunity to be playing in an environment that gets us ready for the quarterfinals," added Foster. "I think that's a good thing. We're still playing for seeding and to have a big crowd tonight, I don't think the crowd will be noisier than the crowd the Czechs brought, there might be more people, but it won't be noisier. So I thing tonight helped us for tomorrow."
"It's all about communication," said USA guard Beard. "Anytime we communicate we play good defense. We didn't do it against Brazil, we did it tonight and it decided the outcome of the game. We know we have to win every game from here on out, we have to beat Croatia tomorrow, that's a must. That's the only game we're focused on right now because we have to win and it's their home. In  we got beat by the Czechs in their home. But hopefully it won't happen again this year."
In a game in which the United States never trailed, the score was twice knotted to kick off the game, the second coming with a Czech bucket at 8:01 and the score 4-4. The U.S. then turned the defensive pressure up a notch and took off on a 10-2 run which ended with a Christi Thomas (Georgia / Buford, Ga.) jumper as a result of a Beard steal. The Americans allowed just five more Czech points over the remainder of the period, while scoring nine, including a Thomas layup at the buzzer, and at the end of 10 minutes the United States was in control 23-11.
Starting where it left off, the United States kicked off the second quarter with a 10-2 run, which saw five players score, and at 5:57 was ahead by 20, 23-13. The Czechs outscored the USA 8-2 over the next two minutes and trailed 35-21 with 3:57 remaining in the half. However, that was as close as they would come as the U.S. collected six points from Nicole Ohlde (Kansas State / Clay Center, Kan.) during a 12-0 run capped at 1:03 by an Ohlde layup and the Americans on top 47-21. By the midway buzzer the lead was up to 52-23.
In the first half, the United States shot a blistering 53.3 percent (24-45 FGs) from the field, passed of for 12 assists, was credited for 12 steals and turned the ball over just five times, while holding the Czech Republic, which had 12 turnovers, to a paltry 29.0 percent (9-31 FGs) from the field.
The red, white and blue was never seriously challenged in the second half as it steadily increased its lead for the eventual 48-point, 94-46 victory.
In addition to Beard's 12 points, Ohlde scored 11 and Caity Matter (Ohio State / Bluffton, Ohio), Shawntinice Polk (Arizona / Hanford, Calif.) and Kendra Wecker (Kansas State / Marysville, Kan.) came off the bench to score 10 points apiece. Beard was credited for five steals, while Seimone Augustus (Louisiana State / Baton Rouge, La.) and Wecker nabbed four, while Thomas grabbed a game high 11 rebounds.
The USA finished shooting 51.9 percent (41-79 FGs) from the field, while limiting the Czechs to just 28.8 percent (17-59 FGs) overall and outrebounded its opponents 38-30. Additionally, the United States finished with 24 steals off of 25 Czech turnovers.
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 preliminary round Group B play, China (2-2) defeated Argentina (1-3) 73-68, Australia (3-1) ran past Russia (2-2) 75-57 and Latvia (0-4) remained undefeated after an 88-42 victory over Tunisia (0-4).
Seimone Augustus, Louisiana State University
On tonight's game:
"We came out hard today, maybe because we lost against Brazil. We need to improve on keeping things constant like coach says, not ups and downs. It was very important for us to start like that, we didn't want to come out sluggish and let the Czechs get up on us like Brazil did because they're a good team. By us jumping on them early, it made their confidence go down."
Alana Beard, Duke University
Was the 2001 FIBA Junior World Championship semifinal loss to this team, the Czech Republic, in the back of your mind today?
"Yes, that's what Cappie (Pondexter) and I talked about before the game. We remembered the pain that we had in the Czech Republic and we didn't want to feel that pain again. Of course it wasn't just about two years ago, it was about two days ago when we lost to Brazil. It was still with us and we had to learn from what we did last year and we also learned from what we did two days ago."
Caity Matter, Ohio State University
How good did it feel to go out and get the win like that tonight?
"It felt real good. We knew we looked bad against Brazil and to come out here and play another game, it looked like we were hungrier and we had a little more intensity today. We know that if we lose we're not going to get into the medal rounds so we have to continue taking it one game at a time and stay as intense as we were today."
Nicole Ohlde, Kansas State University
On tonight's game:
"It was definitely a huge win because most of the teams (in our preliminary round group) were two and one before the rest day and we knew Brazil had already gotten a win. We knew that we needed to come out and get a victory to get ready to go into the final game of pool play on a good note."
Shawntinice Polk, University of Arizona
On tonight's game:
"We talked about our loss to Brazil a lot over the past few days and the coaches were telling us that we weren't talking enough. We knew we weren't up on ourselves in that game and it showed the entire game. And tonight we knew we had to talk together and play as a team and that's what we did. We talked about that before the game, at the shoot around, all day yesterday, about playing as a team, and tonight we came together and did that."
On her play inside:
"My teammates were giving me good looks. The guards were penetrating and dishing, guards creating shots and it's up to me to get the ball. They create on one side, everyone turns their back, and then I flash and they get me the ball. I have to give a lot of credit to my team, they're great getting me the ball, going inside-outside. It's great because everybody is creating for everyone else."
Cappie Pondexter, Rutgers University
On how it feels to defeat the Czech Republic, a team Pondexter, Alana Beard and the USA Junior World Championship Team lost to in the 2001 FIBA Junior World Championship semifinal contest:
"Before the game I talked with Alana and told here that this game should mean a lot to us, more than everybody else. They're in a jam because they lost a couple of games and in order for them to advance they needed to beat us. We took this game personally, it meant a lot to us because two years ago they beat us to go the gold medal game and it's something we've had on our chest for two years and we finally got it off."