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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

U.S. Defeats France, 81-60, to Advance Undefeated to World Championship Second Round

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Photo Caption: When things got off to a rocky start as the French headed off to a five-point first-quarter lead, it fell to Diana Taurasi, who led all U.S. scorers with 15 points, plus six boards, two assists and a steal, to get the party started for Team USA. With two minutes left in the opening period, Taurasi knocked down a short jumper to launch a 10-2 run that broke a prolonged dry spell and regained a lead the Americans would not forfeit for the balance of the game.

Photo Credit: Tara Polen

By Lee Michaelson

To describe it as a slow start understates the case. Considerably.

For the first eight minutes of the opening period of Saturday’s preliminary round match against France, the United States scored only three points.  Two on a short jumper by Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky) in the paint, and one by Swin Cash (Seattle Storm) from the free-throw line.

In that same eight-minute span, the U.S. shot just one-of-eight from the field (14.1 percent) and one-of-two from the charity stripe. Meanwhile, the Americans suffered from loose handles, turning the ball over six times—seven, if you count the offensive foul by Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream).

Les Bleues seized the opportunity to take an 8-5 lead, one they did not relinquish until the final 14 seconds of the period, when Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun) dropped in a jumper from low in the paint to make it 11-10, giving Team USA the lead for good, as the U.S. slugged its way to an 80-61 win over the European champions to advance undefeated to the second round of the 2010 FIBA Women’s World Basketball Championships.

With six seconds left, Bird picked the pocket of France’s Florence Lepron.  The ball found its way to Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), who beat the buzzer with a mid-range jumper to round out a painfully ugly first quarter, 13-10 in favor of the Americans.

The 8-2 U.S. run in the last two minutes of the quarter was enough to elevate the Americans’ field-goal percentage for the quarter to 45 percent.

The one saving grace for Team USA was that the French, though leading much of the way, weren’t faring much better than the Americans.  The French got their points on volume shooting, finishing the opening period three-of-15 (20 percent) from the field, and 0-for-5 from long-range. And the Americans were better able to capitalize on French mistakes, gleaning six points from Les Bleues’ three turnovers, whereas France gained nothing from Team USA’s seven first-quarter miscues.

As Team USA captain Sue Bird put it afterward, “France is a very good team. They are well coached, and you can tell they have been playing together for a long time. And for us, we just got caught up in the moment, I think, in the first quarter, and we didn’t really run our sets, didn’t really execute what we wanted to do, and it took some time to get into our flow. Even though France is a very good team, I really think that was all us.”

Team USA and University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma agreed. “I thought the first half, the first 10 minutes especially, were difficult for both teams to make any shots. Usually when you play pretty good defense and hold the other team to three or four or five points, you would think that you would come down and get maybe 10, 12, 14, but it was difficult for both teams in that first 10 minutes. As we settled into a rhythm, we played really well.”

Though France started the second quarter by closing the gap to one with a midrange jumper by Endene Miyem, who finished as the game’s high scorer with 15 points, plus four boards, the U.S. began to find its rhythm early in the second quarter.

In a period of less than 10 seconds, Candice Dupree (Phoenix Mercury) knocked down a midrange jumper, then rebounded Miyem’s miss and laid it in at the other end on an assist from Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx).

Photo Caption: Candice Dupree (White #7) was crucial in jump starting the sputtering U.S. offense, shooting a perfect three-for-three from the field and four-of-four from the line. Here, Dupree notches two of her 10 points for the day, apparently unfazed by plenty of defensive attention from French defenders, left-to-right, Florence Lepron, Emmeline Ndongue and Endene Miyem.
Photo Credit: Tara Polen


Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun) followed up on the next possession, grabbing the offensive board on Tamika Catchings’ (Indiana Fever) miss and cementing the put-back. 

With the score now 19-15, Team USA, French coach Pierre Vincent decided it was time to talk things over.  It didn’t stop the bleeding.

Out of the timeout, Pauline Jannault missed an open jumper, and seconds later, fouled Dupree in the act of shooting. Dupree sank both the penalty shots.

Photo Caption: The game was nothing if not “physical.” Here, Clemente Beikes (Blue #8) demonstrates the French approach to stopping Tamika Catchings (White #10) from taking off on the fast break.
Photo Credit: Tara Polen

Photo Caption: Angel McCoughtry (White #8) heads to the hole and gets an elbow to the ribs from France’s Florence Lepron (Blue #6) for her troubles.
Photo Credit: Tara Polen

Photo Caption: Of course, the Americans often gave as good as they got. Here, Tina Charles (White # 15) forcefully jockeys for position in the paint with France’s Marielle Amant (Blue #7).
Photo Credit: Tara Polen

Though the U.S. expanded its lead to as many as 10 points (31-21) over the course of the period, the French managed to keep things within closing distance. France actually outscored the Americans, 10-8, in the last five minutes of the half, as Team USA suffered a second scoring drought, this one lasting nearly four-and-a-half minutes, broken only by a Tina Charles free throw.

The two teams headed to the locker room with the U.S. up, 36-29, but the French definitely making a statement. Despite their late-quarter dry spell, the Americans shot the ball well in the second quarter, netting nine-of-15 (60 percent) of their shots from the field in that span, to raise their overall shooting percentage to 54 percent from the field. Candice Dupree led the way for the U.S. with eight points on perfect shooting from both the field (two-of-two) and the charity stripe (four-of-four).

The French also settled down in the second period, slowing their torrid, but not particularly efficient shooting pace to nine-of-17 (53 percent), to elevate their overall field-goal percentage for the half to a respectable, if not awe-inspiring, 38 percent.  By the game’s halfway mark, Miyem had already netted 13 of her 15 points for the day.

Both teams were struggling from the arc, with the U.S. connecting on just one-of-three from long range. The French also knocked down just one trey in the half, but that didn’t keep them from hoisting six long-balls up there.

Persistent rebounding was keeping the Americans on top in this game, as Team USA controlled the boards, 22-14, in the opening half.

Out of the locker room, the French managed to keep pace with the Americans for the first five minutes of the third quarter, but were unable to pick up any ground. But the U.S. began to pull away in the latter half of the period, as the Americans began to seize control of the paint. Tina Charles and Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream) connected on a series of short jumpers, while Tamika Catchings and Candice Dupree got the fast break in motion and Maya Moore knocked down a midrange jumper and one of her two three-point attempts in the period. In less than one minute late in the period, McCoughtry and Dupree joined hands for a 7-0 U.S. scoring run that brought the margin to 58-41 and led to another French call for time.

On the other side of the ball, the Americans stepped up their defense, all but extinguishing France’s Miyem as a scoring threat. The player responsible for nearly half of France’s first-half scoring in the first half, was able to get off just one shot in the third period, and though she knocked down the short jumper for two more points, they would be her last of the game.

Photo Caption: Endene Miyem (Blue #5) carried the French offense with 13 points in the opening half, but as the U.S. defense locked down on her in the second, Miyem was reduced to a bystander, notching only two more points in the balance of the game. Here, Miyem vies for a rebound against Team USA’s Tamika Catchings (White # 10) and Swin Cash (White #11).
Photo Credit: Tara Polen

Les Bleues were staying in the game thanks largely to the three, as Jennifer Digbou knocked one long ball and Pauline Jannault netted two more from beyond the arc.  But with the Americans continuing to control the glass, France’s inefficient three-point shooting (three-of-nine for the quarter, but now four-of-15, or 27 percent, for the game as a whole) was costly in terms of possessions.

Photo Caption: With France’s Edene Miyem, the only French player to breach double figures in this contest, largely shut down in the second half of this game, the job fell to other players to keep France in the game. Team captain Celine Dumerc, a 5-7 sparkplug of a combo guard, worked hard to inspire her crew, but thanks to the U.S. lock-down defense, garnered just seven points in the contest on 17 percent from the field (three-of-12) and a miserable one-of-six (17 percent) from beyond the arc.
Photo Credit: Tara Polen

As the game headed into the final stanza, the Americans had stretched their lead 13 points, 61-48.

In the final period, France worked hard to stop the hemorrhaging in the paint, double-teaming Charles, Fowles and anyone else who entered the key in possession of the ball. The strategy met with limited success early on, as McCoughtry and Asjha Jones (Connecticut Sun) reacted to the harassment by turning over the ball.

But Lindsay Whalen drove hard to the hole for a lay-up and Moore and Bird connected from the perimeter, forcing France to open things up a bit.  With a little over a minute left to play, Team USA took its largest lead of the game, 23 points, as Moore made up for a bad-pass turnover (followed by a silly foul in the attempt to regain possession) by dropping in a short jumper.

Lepron would net two from the charity stripe to bring the score to its final margin, 81-60.
Despite the rocky start, Auriemma was pleased with his team’s overall performance. “Our defense was much better in the second half. Our second group that came in did a great job in the third quarter. We have a young team, but we have some talented players and we have depth. I think that helped us again tonight.”

The U.S. got a strong performance from Diana Taurasi, who tied Miyem for the game-high of 15 points on five-of-11 (45 percent) shooting from the field.  Taurasi also contributed six rebounds, two assists and a steal, but three turnovers.

Joining her in double figures were Tina Charles with 10 points, three rebounds and three assists, and Candice Dupree, who also had 10 points, plus six boards.

Maya Moore had her quietest outing of the tournament with nine points on four-of-nine from the field, but just one-of-four from downtown. As a general matter, three-point shooting has been one of the few deficits in the American offense, but for the most part, they have not felt the need for the three-point threat. That may change, however, as the Americans advance to face teams with greater height and the ability to collapse in the paint.

In this game, however, despite the French strategy of using traps and double-teams to try to frustrate the American post players, the U.S. dominated both the glass and the paint. Though the French had some height, they feeling the absence of Sandrine Gruda, one of the strongest European post players in the game.  The U.S. won the battle of the boards, 42-25, and finished with 40 points in the paint to France’s eight. (Moore led the Americans in rebounding with eight boards—a game-high.

Moreover, though offensive rebounding was roughly equal (the U.S. brought down 14 offensive boards to 12 for France), the U.S. was far more effective in turning those rebounds into second-chance points (11 for the Americans, to just four for France).

Similarly, the U.S. was more effective in exploiting French mistakes. Though the U.S. actually had more turnovers (18, to 15 for the French), Team USA garnered 20 points off turnovers, France just five. 

French coach Pierre Vincent confessed to having been surprised by his team’s ability not only to hang around the Americans for as long as they did, but also to take the lead for much of the first quarter.

“It wasn’t our target to win this game,” he stated. “We couldn’t compete wit the team like USA, but we tried to play our best. It is [a] great opportunity to play against [a] team like USA, because we didn’t have a chance to play with such a team in Europe.”

Over the course of the game, the American defense held the French to just 36.1 percent shooting from the field and 27.8 percent from beyond the arc (five-of-18), while knocking down 55.6 percent of their own field goals.

“We played great defense, the whole game. They didn’t score very well,” said Senior National Team newcomer Jayne Appel (San Antonio Silver Stars).  On defense, “we were focused, and we gave up fewer threes than we have been, which is something we’ve been trying to focus on. So, to come out and be able to do that was good for us, to be able to get our defensive momentum going,” she added.

As for the offense, “We just started off a little slow,” said Angel McCoughtry. “We just had to settle down and run our plays better, because once we start running our offense, passing and cutting, we get easy layups. We just have to come out with a little better start in the future. “

“Once we got our rhythm, we were fine,” she added. “We just had to run our offense and reverse the ball. Once we started doing that, everything started running smoothly.”

The U.S. will now enjoy a day off to practice and rest, before moving on to the Round of Eight as the top seed from Group B. Auriemma is looking forward to the opportunity to get in some time on the practice court, but is also aware of the fatigue factor.

“The difficult thing about this tournament is you play three games and your team’s tired, and then you have to practice. So how much can you practice, knowing that you have three more games?” Auriemma stated. “It’s difficult to improve a lot during the tournament. You have to hope your team is ready to play when they get here. Watching us the first three games, when our offense is moving, we’re very good. When we’re standing around, it’s not so good. I think [we want to work on] the same things that every coach wants to work on - you get better at defense, you get better at moving without the ball and you get a little smarter on how to guard screens. Tomorrow—we just have a couple of our players, we just got one practice together before they played—so tomorrow will be our second practice. Hopefully we’ll fix some of those things.”

Monday will feature a North American match-up as the U.S. takes on Canada, which finished third in Group A with a 1-2 record. Tuesday the U.S. faces Belarus, who finished 2-1 on the opposite side of the bracket, leading up to Wednesday’s much-awaited showdown with the reigning world champion, Australia. All three games tip off at 2:15 p.m. EDT, 8:15 p.m. local in Ostrava.

France, too, advances to the Round of Eight with a 2-1 preliminary-round record.  First up for Les Bleues will be a date with Belarus.  On Tuesday, the French take on Australia, who finished undefeated in Group A, and on Wednesday they meet Canada. All three of those games will begin at noon EDT, 6:00 p.m. local.



Side Notes

  • U.S. Coach Geno Auriemma says it’s tougher to coach a national team in a tournament such as the World Championships than it has been to guide his own Huskies to back-to-back championships in the NCAA. “This is much more difficult here than playing in the NCAA Tournament,” Auriemma stated. “When you go into the NCAA Tournament, you’ve had five months together. Here, you get together for a couple days, and then you come over and play. And you’re playing against better teams. It’s much more difficult. “In the NCAA Tournament your team is together, you’re better and you know what you’re going to get and you can prepare. Here, the teams that you play are much better. They all can score. They all can do things that can hurt you. In the NCAA Tournament if you play poorly, we can still win. At this tournament, especially next Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, if you play poorly, you can lose. For me, this is much more difficult than the NCAA Tournament.”


  • While we’re making comparisons, Yelena Leuchanka (Atlanta Dream) who helped lead her Belarus team into the Round of Eight with seven points and a game-high 16 boards in today’s 61-49 win over Canada, sees some big differences between her first trip to the World Championships and her recent experience, also her first, in the WNBA Finals. At least in the preliminary rounds, she finds World Championship play a bit easier. In both cases, she said, you are suiting up against the world’s best players. But international play features better fundamentals, while the WNBA rewards greater athleticism and physicality in Leuchanka’s opinion.


  • University of Connecticut senior Maya Moore (Team USA) is not the only collegian in this tournament working hard to balance games, practices and schoolwork.  Canada’s Natalie Achonwa, an incoming freshman at Notre Dame, and Janelle Bekkering, a senior at Gonzaga, are both hitting the books every chance they get, according to Canadian coach Allison McNeill, who thinks her Canucks might just be the youngest team in the tournament.


  • Which international star could we next see playing in a WNBA jersey? French coach Pierre Vincent says that several WNBA coaches have expressed interest in team captain Celine Dumerc, and Connecticut’s Mike Thibault in particular thinks the feisty little combo guard might have a place in his system.  The 5-7 (1.69 meters) 28-year old, who spends her winters with Russian Club Ekaterinburg, may be a bit old to start a WNBA career as a rookie, but her speed, athleticism and ability to see the court certainly deserve a look. Dumerc has averaged 7.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and four assists per game thus far in the tournament, but her biggest contribution is not her scoring but the energy and spark she brings to the game and her ability to get things going as she quickly
    slashes to the hoop.


  • The World Championship Games have been quite popular here in Moravian region of the Czech Republic. A spokesman for the local organizing committee conceded that free tickets were provided to students to draw a crowd to the Thursday and Friday sessions held during the working day, but said that organizers have been quite pleased with turnouts at Saturday and evening games. Saturday’s U.S.-France match drew more than 4,700 noisy and enthusiastic fans, each of whom paid between 100 and 1,000 Czech crowns (roughly $5 to $50 U.S. dollars), depending on seat location, to cheer on their favorites. Two hours away in Brno, every session in which the Czech National Team has appeared has been a sell-out in the smaller, 3,500-seat, arena.

Saturday’s Other Games

* = Team Advances to Eight-Final Round

Ostrava – Group A

  • Australia* (3-0) 91 – China (0-3) 68

    High Scorer: Lijie Miao (China) – 17

    High Rebounder: Hollie Grima (Australia) – 8

  • Belarus * (2-1)  61—Canada* (1-2) 49

    High Scorer:  Tatyana Troina (Belarus)—16

    High Rebounder:  Yelena Leuchanka (Belarus)—16

Ostrava – Group B

  • USA* (3-0) 81 – France* (2-1) 60

    High Scorer:  Endene Miyem (France), Diana Taurasi (USA)—15

    High Rebounder: Maya Moore (USA) —8

  • Greece* (1-2) 83—Senegal (0-3) 68

    High Scorer: Evanthia Maltsi (Greece)—31

    High Rebounder: Animata Diop (Senegal)—11

Brno – Group C

  • Korea* (2-1) 68—Mali (0-3) 66 (OT)

    High Scorer: Yeon Ha Beon (Korea)—21

    High Rebounder: Magnouma Coulibaly (Mali)— 12

  • Spain* (3-0) 69—Brazil* (1-2) 57

    High Scorer:  Amaya Valdemoro (Spain)—17

    High Rebounder: Erika De Souza (Brazil)—13

Brno – Group D

  • Russia* (3-0) 77—Argentina (0-3)  59

    High Scorer: Irina Osipova (Russia) —20

    High Rebounder: Tatiana Vidmer (Russia)—12

  • Czech Republic* (2-1) 66 – Japan*  (1-2) 60

    High Scorer:  Yuko Oga (Japan)—22

    High Rebounder:  Veronika Bortelova (Czech Republic)—8


Argentina, China, Mali and Senegal drop into the classification rounds on Tuesday, while the remaining teams advance to the Round of Eight.


Originally published Sat, September 25, 2010

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