Oct. 11, 2009
Ekaterinburg, Russia -
Fueled by a 23-0 offensive onslaught that covered the last half of the second quarter and the first two minutes of the third, the USA Women's National Team (3-0) handed host UMMC Ekaterinburg (2-1) a 78-63 defeat on its home court to win its third game in as many days and claim the Ekaterinburg International Invitational championship Sunday evening.
The U.S., which began training on Sept. 30 in Washington, D.C., was led by Angel McCoughtry's (Atlanta Dream) 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting, while Swin Cash (Seattle Storm) accounted for 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting; Sue Bird (Seattle Storm) added 11 points and Tina Charles (University of Connecticut) tossed in 10 points and grabbed eight boards. Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky) snagged a game best 12 rebounds and contributed five points.
Whille the USA team captured the championship trophy and gold medals, McCoughtry was also named the tournament's most valuable player and Bird was selected the invitational's most valuable point guard. McCoughtry led the USA in scoring over the three games, averaging 15.3 ppg. After scoring 20 points in the win over Ekaterinburg she was named the Invitational's MVP.
"We knew it was going to be a difficult game because of how good they (Ekaterinburg) are, the crowd and being home, and we were missing two of our really important players. But I can't be more proud and excited for the players on our team; how well we played; how well we executed; how strong we were throughout the whole game," said USA and University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma.
"They don't make a lot of mistakes and we knew we would have to play pretty much a perfect game and I think we came pretty close to playing a perfect game. There were very, very few mistakes by us and everybody that played, played really, really well. We had contributions from everyone and that's what makes this feel even better.
"Swin (Cash) was unbelievable in the beginning. We went into the game wanting to attack them a little bit one-on-one because of their size, they were just so big and I thought if we could use our quickness that would be to our advantage. I started Swin because I know she plays great in big games.
"I thought Tina (Charles) came off the bench and gave us some great minutes. Angel (McCoughtry) was spectacular - defensively, offensively; and Shameka (Christon) hit those couple of threes and they were huge because you know you come out in the second half and you're not sure what's going to happen the first couple of minutes and then bang we got them and I think it kind of demoralized them a little bit."
Playing in front of a sold-out and partisan UMMC Ekaterinburg crowd, the U.S. started strong and behind six points from McCoughtry jumped ahead 8-4 before the game was three minutes old.
Ekaterinburg tied the game at 10 and the two teams battled back and forth for the remainder of the first quarter and after a Bird jumper found the bottom of the net with six seconds to play in the first quarter the Americans had a 26-23 lead.
Asjha Jones (Connecticut Sun), who played the first two games of the tournament for the USA but because she is under contract with UMMC Ekaterinburg played for Russian professional squad in this contest, scored back-to-back baskets and Ekaterinburg scored the first six points With Ekaterinburg holding on to a 33-30 lead with 5:45 to play before halftime, the USA reeled off the second quarter's final 17 points to take charge 47-33. During the game clinching run, six different U.S. players scored as the USA defense forced turnovers and missed shots then converted on the offensive end to take the life out of the Russian team and its fans.
"It was all about the defense," said McCoughtry about the 17-0 run. "We played good D, they were tired, we got rebounds and ran."
Whatever hopes Ekaterinburg harbored to come out after the halftime break and get back in the game were quickly extinguished when Shameka Christon (New York Liberty) drained consecutive 3-point shots to further push the U.S. lead 53-33 and extend the scoring run to 23 consecutive points.
Ekaterinburg finally added a point when Olga Arteshina made one of two free throws with 8:07 left in the third period. The USA lead reached as many as 23 in the third and stood at 65-45 heading into the game's final 10 minutes.
Eakertinburg managed to cut the deficit to 14, 74-60, with 1:36 to go, but a Bird hoop sealed the deal for the U.S.
The USA, after shooting 52.8 percent in the first half, finished the contest hitting 47.7 percent of its shots and behind outstanding defensive play, limited Ekaterinburg to 30.0 percent shooting for the game, including 37.5 percent from 3-point. Despite being the smaller team, the U.S. controlled the glass and outrebounded Ekaterinburg 43-37.
The USA performance was even more impressive given the team was without the services of two of its top post players. 2008 Olympic gold medalist Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks) missed a second game because of a dislocated left shoulder that was suffered during the first minute of the second quarter in the USA's game Friday, while Jones played with UMMC Ekaterinburg.
The Ekaterinburg International Invitational featured the USA Basketball Women's National Team and three EuroLeague professional teams, the host Russia squad UMMC Ekaterinburg , ZVVZ USK Prague from the Czech Republic and the Hungary professional team MKB Euroleasing Sopron. In the game that determined third place, USK Prague (1-2) beat Euroleasing Sopron (0-3) 77-65.
Auriemma was assisted at the Ekaterinburg International Invitational by DePaul University head coach Doug Bruno and Minnesota Lynx head coach Jennifer Gillom. Both coaches will serve as assistants to Auriemma and the USA National Team through the 2010 FIBA World Championship.
Story was written by USA Basketball Media Relations Staff