Friday, October 26, 2007

U.S. Women Into Final Game

The U.S. Senior Women's National Game advanced to the championship of the 2007 FIBA World League Tournament early Friday, blowing by host Ekaterinburg 97-79. The U.S. women started fast, hitting four threes in their first five possessions and putting up 33 points in the first quarter. They never really looked back, leading by 22 points at halftime and holding off an Ekaterinburg comeback attempt in the fourth quarter that got no closer than 10 points.

"I tell you what, we shot the ball so well in the first half," said U.S. Head Coach Anne Donovan. "We get excited about our defense because as well as we shot it, we made them very uncomfortable running their sets. It's a beautiful thing when you shoot the ball well and you're playing like that on the other end of the floor. In the second half we didn't shoot as well, but we still shot very good. Even though they made the run, which we knew they would, we kicked it in defensively and got stops when we had to had them. "

The U.S. had plenty of firepower, including the best statistical night of the tournament from Storm guard Sue Bird. She scored 13 points, including a trio of three-pointers, and handed out six assists. Bird's buddy Diana Taurasi led the U.S. with 25 points, adding five triples. And veteran Taj McWilliams-Franklin was an anchor in the paint with 15 points and 10 boards.

Defensively, the U.S. women shut down All-Star forward Penny Taylor, who scored seven points and attempted only six shots in 30 minutes. Sandrine Gruda (20) and Agneiszka Bibrzycka (19) had big nights for Ekaterinburg, but it was not enough. A pair of former 2005 Storm teammates also play for Ekaterinburg - forward Natalia Vodopyanova and center Suzy Batkovic.

In the other semifinal, CSKA Moscow crushed CBA Beijing to set up a rematch of Wednesday's game won by the U.S. The two teams will square off in the final very early Saturday morning Seattle time.

"I'm sure it'll be another very tough battle," said Donovan. They've got great inside players. (Ann) Wauters and (Maria) Stepanova are big players. Stepanova had a good game against us, Wauters was not as effective so I'm sure their focus will be to get the ball inside and see if they can attack our post game a little better than they did the first time."

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