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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Americans Crush Korea, 106-44, to Advance to Worlds’ Semifinals in a Day of Major Upsets

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Photo Caption:  Angel McCoughtry led Team USA to a 106-44 thrashing of Korea with 17 points off the bench in today’s Women’s World Basketball Championship quarterfinal match-up. Many of the U.S. starters got more rest than usual in the blow-out win. Meanwhile, the United States was the only upper seed to hold serve in today, as the Czechs upset the reigning World Champion, Australia, 79-68; Belarus downed arch-rival Russia, 70-53; and Spain knocked off the European champion, France, 74-71, in overtime.

Photo Credit: Courtesy FIBA World

By Lee Michaelson

Team USA was watching in the final minutes as previously undefeated Russia went down to defeat at the hands of fourth-seeded Belarus today. The lesson wasn’t lost on the Americans.

“We didn’t want to start the game and not be ready, and not give 100 percent,” said U.S. and University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma.

“We knew we it didn’t matter [who we were playing ],” said Tamika Catchings. (Indiana Fever) “Seeing what happened and knowing that if you don’t come out ready to play straight from the beginning, it can have an effect on the whole game. Like coach said, for us we wanted to come out with a lot of energy right off the bat and everybody built off of that.”

Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream) and Maya Moore (University of Connecticut senior) echoed the sentiment. “We just know … that looking today at the Russia-Belarus game, you can’t just turn it on turn it off, you have to be prepared,” said McCoughtry.

“Something Coach told us in the locker room today, which was very true, was the fact that we’ve had our moments, our quarters, our halves, over periods of time we’ve played great, but we haven’t really put together a whole game yet. That’s what we were trying to do today, get one step forward, one step closer to putting together a complete game because that is what we are going to need down the stretch,” Moore added.

And that’s exactly what they did. Auriemma turned once again to Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun) and Candice Dupree (Phoenix Mercury) to round out his starting line-up of Catchings, Sue Bird (Seattle Storm) and Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury). Charles won the opening tip and Catchings dropped it in at the opposite end to launch a 6-0 U.S. run over the first two minutes of the opening period. They never let up until the final buzzer sounded and the score stood, USA 106 - 44 Korea.

Korean captain Sunmin Jung interrupted the party with a midrange jumper and Kwe Ryong Kim followed that with a lay-up, for four of Korea’s 11 points in the opening period.

Meanwhile, the Korean zone was having no appreciable effect on the Americans, who quickly shifted back into high gear and were up, 17-6 five minutes in.  Though Auriemma emptied his talented bench, Team USA’s foot never came off the gas pedal, as they rolled to a 28-11 lead by the end of the first quarter, and a 48-22 edge by the half.

By halftime, every American player but Bird and Jayne Appel (San Antonio Silver Stars) was on the scoreboard, and both of those had done their part. Bird provided steady ball-handling and on-target passing, and in just three-and-a-half minutes on the floor late in the second quarter, Appel had contributed two offensive boards, one of them leading to a second-chance bucket by Asjha Jones (Connecticut Sun).

Charles led Team USA in first-half scoring with eight points, but the American effort was so well-balanced that by the half two players – McCoughtry and Catchings – had six points apiece, and four others – Taurasi, Jones, Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx) and Swin Cash (Seattle Storm) – had five each.

Kwe Ryong Kim led the way for Korea with eight points, followed by Yeon Ha Beon with six (plus four boards), but five of the Korea players came up empty-handed and the others had no more than two points each.

The Americans dominated both the boards, 28-12, and nine-to-one on the offensive glass, and the paint, where Team USA held a 36-14 edge by halftime. The U.S. led on second-chance points, 11-2, fast-break points, 12-0, and points off turnovers, with the U.S. gleaning 12 points off Korea’s 10 errors, while Korea gained nothing from the four U.S. mistakes.

The second half was more of same. Despite some sloppy moments in the third quarter where the U.S. seemed briefly to be playing down to its competition, Team USA came out of the locker room strong, putting up 15 points in the first five minutes of the third period, while holding Korea to just three. As if to top that, the U.S. put up 20 points more in the final five minutes of the third, while limiting Korea to just four in that time frame.

The U.S. could have just coasted to the finish line, but on offense, at least, continued to pull out the stops, topping the century mark with just over two minutes left in regulation on an inside jumper by Jones, who had one of her better games of the tournament, finishing with nine points, four boards and two steals, but four turnovers.

The defense seemed to let a bit, allowing Korea 15 points in the final quarter, more than any other stanza of the game. But no matter, the buzzer sounded with the U.S. on top, 106-44.

In a short postgame statement, Korean coach Dal Chik Lim put it simply (through two translators), “Of course, we know that the team U.S. is much higher [level] than us. … We try to do our best, but everyone knows that we had a lot of injuries, a lot of illnesses, but that’s the reason for the difference [in the score]. Since the very beginning of the game, we knew we were at a lover level than our rival. In this case, it was a psychological aspect which was very difficult against us.”

Auriemma acknowledged that Korea was down to nine players, which made it all the more difficult for them when the U.S. was able to continually throw fresh – and highly talented – legs on the floor.

Team USA also had the advantage, in Auriemma’s words, “size-wise and quickness-wise.”

But the difference came down to much more than that, especially since Auriemma seized the opportunity to give his bigs and his starters plenty of rest.

First, was an incredible effort on the part of the U.S. defense, which to some degree has been overshadowed by the high-scoring American offense.

Auriemma stated afterward that his team had done nothing differently against Korea. “We’ve got great athletes. There’s certain lineups that we put out there that are all the same size it seems like. We’re able to switch certain screens and make it very difficult for them to get a clean look at the basket. Obviously that makes it difficult for Korea to get an open look at the basket.”

“Every game that we’ve played since we’ve been here we’ve had a very solid defensive effort,” Auriemma continued. “Some have been better than others. One of the best efforts we’ve had was against Australia the other night, where they had 18 points for the longest time. When you’ve got great offensive players like we do, if you can get them to really buy into the defensive ends of things, your chances of winning the gold medal go up dramatically. You’re not just going to come out here and run up and down the floor, trade baskets with other teams and think that that’s going to be the winning edge. We’ve got players on our team that want to play defense. They take it personal. Our team is based on … that’s what starts our offense. One of the reasons our offense is so good is because defensively we kind of set the stage right then and there. You can’t get a shot against us, we rebound, we outlet and then we put the pressure on you.’

“We’ve got guys who play really hard on the defensive end,” Auriemma continued. “They take a lot of pride in themselves.”

One of those players is Catchings, the four-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year.  Catchings makes a heavy contribution to the box score, and is among the team’s leading scorers and rebounders nearly every game. But what sets her apart are the hustle plays that never show up in the box score, the balls saved from heading out of bounds, the disruption of the passing lanes.

“After watching Tamika play defense and some of the other pros on my team, I can see why she wins it every year. She’s smart. She’s aggressive. She wants to do it. That’s the number one thing, she wants to do it. There are a lot of other players in the WNBA that would have the opportunity to win that award, if they wanted to. I don’t think anybody wants it more than Tamika, and I don’t think anybody works at it as much as Tamika does. That’s why she deserves it, no matter how many years she gets it.”

In particular, the U.S. shut down the Korean three-point game, which has generally been one of its strengths. The U.S. held Korea to just 19-of-62 (31 percent) from the field, but five-of-22 (23 percent) from beyond the arc. While Team USA’s own three-point effort wasn’t particularly noteworthy (four-of-11, for 36 percent), that’s a lot of lost possessions for Korea.

Especially, with the U.S. so thoroughly dominating the boards, a second reason for the American win. Greater height, obviously contributed to that area of success, but to out-rebound your opposition 60-16, and 22-3 on the offensive boards, as the U.S. did in this game, there has to be a lot of effort involved as well.

Candice Dupree led that effort with 16 boards (to go with 12 points for a double-double), a tournament high for her. But every single American player contributed to the rebounding effort, with four players landing five or more rebounds, in an across-the-board effort that Taurasi told Full Court had been a point of emphasis for the Americans in their limited practice sessions.

Photo Caption: Candice Dupree heads to the hole over South Korea’s Yeon Ha Beon. Dupree notched a double-double of 12 points and a game-high 16 rebounds in today’s 106-44 quarterfinal victory.
Photo Credit: Tara Polen

And, of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a 12-deep roster of players every one of whom can put the ball in the hole, and all but one of whom proved just that in today’s game. (Bird was the only player who didn’t score, but she got plenty of rest, playing just over 15 minutes in today’s game.)

The U.S. led in every power category beginning with points in the paint (72-22) and second-change points (23-2), and also including points off turnovers (20-0, with the U.S. coughing the ball up only 10 times in the game but forcing 19 miscues by the Koreans) and fast-break points (20-4)

Angel McCoughtry led the way with a game-high 17 points, plus five boards, but denied it was a “breakout” game for her. “Just another day at the office,” she said modestly.

She was joined in double digits by Moore (15 points, five boards, three blocks and a steal, for Moore who is listed as a guard for this tournament); Dupree (12 points and 16 rebounds); Cash (11 points, three rebounds, two assists); Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky), who had 10 points and five rebounds in less than 14 minutes on the floor; and Charles, who also chipped in 10 points, plus two boards in a little over 12 minutes.

Auriemma has warned off reporters several times now against assuming that either Team USA or Australia will necessarily play in the gold medal game. A gold medal is obviously the Americans’ goal here, but they’re taking nothing for granted. Russia learned that lesson the hard way this afternoon, and the Czech Republic is now on the cusp of beating Australia, to the great delight of the sold out, and highly partisan crowd. (Final score: 79-68, Czech Republic)

UPDATE: Team USA did not learn its semifinal adversary until after tonight’s late quarterfinal game between France and Spain, in which Spain upset the reigning European champs 74-71 in overtime. Saturday’s semifinal match-ups will feature the Czech Republic versus Belarus at 12:30 p.m. Eastern, 6:30 p.m. local, and the USA versus Spain at 2:45 p.m. Eastern, 8:45 p.m. local time in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic.

Korea will meet France and Australia will take on Russia in classification matches earlier in the day. (Check Full Court’s Women’s Basketball Calendar for particulars.

Check back later for more on that game, the day’s other matches, and photographs from the quarterfinal contests.




Originally published Fri, October 01, 2010

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Week: February 7, 2012
1 Baylor (31) 24-0 1 1 1 775
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3 Connecticut 21-2 3 4 3 710
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6 Miami (FL) 20-3 7 7 6 604
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Others receiving votes: St. Bonaventure (22-2) 34; North Carolina (17-6) 19; California (17-6) 18; Florida Gulf Coast (21-2) 16; Middle Tennessee (19-5) 15; Texas-El Paso (20-2) 8; Texas Tech (16-6) 5; Brigham Young (21-4) 4; Fresno State (19-4) 4; St. John's (15-8) 4; Princeton (15-4) 3; Oklahoma (15-7) 2; West Virginia (17-6) 2; Kansas State (15-7) 1.
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Credit: Courtesy Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). The weekly Division I Top 25 Coaches' Poll, sponsored by USA Today and ESPN, is based on voting by a Board of Coaches made up of 31 head coaches at Division I institutions all of whom are WBCA members.