Wednesday, October 24, 2007

U.S. Women in Russia

The USA Women's Senior National Team traveled to Russia last week to participate in the 2007 FIBA World League Tournament.

In addition to the U.S. Women, the World League Tournament features seven top club teams from around the World. Pool play is now complete, and the U.S. advanced to the semifinals as the second team from Group B after going 2-1 in the preliminary round.

On Monday (actually Sunday night our time), the U.S. women got off to a good start by blowing past the two-time defending WNBL Champion Canberra Capitals 93-49.

The U.S. won that game with defense, holding Canberra to 22.6% shooting in the first half. Meanwhile, Kara Lawson (20 points) powered the U.S. attack. Four other players scored double-figures, including an efficient outing for Janel McCarville (15 points on 6-for-7 shooting). Sue Bird handed out two assists.

Old friend Tully Bevilaqua had 10 points but nary an assist for the Caps. Canberra's leading scorer was another familiar name - Jessica Bibby, the one-time Storm signee whose career was derailed by a back injury. Bibby scored 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting.

On Tuesday, the U.S. took on Lithuanian side TEO Vilnius and was handed a surprising 79-76 defeat. The U.S. Women trailed by as many as 13 in the first half and never came all the way back. They got within three in the final 30 seconds, but Kristin Haynie hit one of two free throws, Katie Smith missed and that was that.

The U.S. shot just 28.6% from the field in the first half.

"We didn't start the game with very much intensity at all and we had to play catch up to come back," said Storm and U.S. Head Coach Anne Donovan. "We thought we did that at one point, then we gave up four straight threes. Our intensity ebbed and flowed throughout the whole game and that certainly caught up with us.

"This was a very disappointing game for us, that's for sure. We didn't play with a lot of intensity tonight and I give Vilnius a lot of credit, they played very well."

McCarville was again strong, posting a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds). Diana Taurasi added 16 and Smith 13. Bird scored eight points, hitting a pair of threes, and handed out three assists.

Nykesha Sales led Vilnius with 21 points. Yelena Leuchanka, who saw time with the Washington Mystics last season, had 17 points and 18 rebounds, and Haynie scored 15 points and dished out six assists.

(Much) earlier today, the U.S. women concluded pool play against CSKA Moscow, needing a win to advance to the medal round. They got it, defeating Moscow 81-72. The game was tight throughout, with the U.S. women holding on.

"You saw a team out there that was on a mission, knowing we had to win this game in order to advance and trying to make up for our poor performance yesterday," said Bird, who finished with six points, five steals and four rebounds. "It was really good to see how focused we were."

Seimone Augustus, in a reserve role, scored a game-high 19 points, with the duo of Smith and Taurasi combining for 31 more.

The U.S. beat a loaded team in CSKA Moscow which has elite foreign talent including one-time Storm guard Edwige Lawson-Wade and Ann Wauters as well as WNBA stars Becky Hammon and Nicole Powell - both of whom came off the bench today.

As a result, TEO Vilnius, CSKA Moscow and the U.S. all finished 2-1 in Group B. Moscow won the group, with the U.S. second and Vilnius third and out of the semifinals. After a day off Thursday, the U.S. Women will play another Russian team, Ekaterinburg, on Friday at 7:00 p.m. local time and 6:00 a.m. Pacific. The winner of that game will face the winner of Moscow-CBA Beijing, the other semifinal.

No comments: