Thursday, September 30, 2010

U.S. Women Dominate Aussies

Well, I guess I was agonizing over nothing. The U.S. women dominated their arch-rivals, the defending world champions from Australia, running out to an early 47-23 lead, then coasting to an 83-75 final.

The Americans never trailed, but it was just 21-18 at 1:51 of the 1st period. But over the next 4 minutes, the U.S. made 7 straight shots and scored 18 consecutive points. Sylvia Fowles and Diana Taurasi scored 15 of the 18 points. Fowles added another bucket a minute later, and the U.S. led by 24 at the 5:19 mark of the 2nd period.

The final score sounds much closer than it was. The Aussies got within 11 at 55-44 at 4:49 of the 3rd, but the U.S. quickly ran the score to 67-48. It was 72-57 after 3. Then, Australia got within 10 at 77-67 at 3:43 of the 4th, and 79-70 at 2:26, but the U.S. still led by 9 at 1:20. 83-75 was as close as the Aussies had been since 21-13.

Taurasi finished with 24 points, Fowles 15 and Tina Charles 14. Fowles and Charles success was something of a surprise, coming at the post position where the Aussies are at their best with WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson and 6-8 Liz Cambage. But while the 2 Aussie posts scored 31 points with 13 rebounds, they couldn't stop their American counterparts who contributed those 29 points and 10 boards.

The U.S. won the game from the field, shooting 46 percent to 38.5. The U.S. hit just one-third of its 3 point shots but Australia made just 4-of-23. Both teams shot 50 percent on 2s, but the Americans attempted 10 more from inside the arc, and so had 5 more 2 pointers than their opponents. Australia had better luck getting to the FT line where they had a 21-13 edge. The possessions, offensive boards and turnovers were about even.

The U.S. now advances to the quarter-finals as the #1 team in Group E, which means they'll play South Korea, 3-3 and #4 in Group F, in the Elite Eight. The winner of that game will get the winner of France (4-2, #3 Group E) and Spain (5-1, #2 Group F).

It's not unlikely that the U.S. will get Australia again in the finals. Standing in the Aussies' way is the unbeaten Russians (6-0, #1 Group F), who have finished 2nd or 3rd in every Olympics and world championship since 2002. But so, too, have the Aussies medaled in every such competition going back to 1994, while winning the world championship in 2006, something the Russians have not done since the 1992 Olympics.

If that happens--a U.S.-Australia rematch--last night's win won't matter much. In fact, Australia will undoubtedly be focused on its 42-32 edge in the 2nd half. Also there's the fact that the U.S. beat the Aussies in an exhibition tournament earlier this year, then lost a week later in a rematch.

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