USA Basketball Women's National Team, Goestenkors qualify for 2008 Beijing Olympics
VALDIVIA, Chile -- A double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds from Diana Taurasi of the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury highlighted five U.S. scorers in double digits as the USA Basketball Women's Senior National Team completed its mission of qualifying for the 2008 Beijing Olympics by crushing Cuba 101-71 Sunday afternoon in the finals of the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship.
On the sidelines for the undefeated (5-0) USA National Team is UT head coach Gail Goestenkors, serving as one of the three assistant coaches. Anne Donovan, former USA Olympian and current coach of the Seattle Storm, is head coach of the USA squad. The other two assistants are 2006 WNBA Coach of the Year Mike Thibault of the Connecticut Sun and Temple University head coach Dawn Staley.
Also scoring in double digits for the USA were Tina Thompson (Houston Comets) with a game-high 18 points. Katie Smith (Detroit Shock) also scored 15 points.
The U.S. joins China, Australia, New Zealand, Mali and Korea as teams that have qualified for the Olympics. The last automatic bid will go to the European winner.
Edging Cuba 44-38 on the glass, the USA shot an even 50 percent from the field which included a sizzling 42.3 percent from 3-point range, knocking down 11 of 26 trey attempts. Cuba was limited to just 33.8 percent shooting from the floor (25-74 FGs) and went nine-for-29 from beyond the arc. Cuba (3-2) dropped both of its FIBA games to the Americans.
Brazil (4-1) earned the bronze medal after ripping 2-3 Argentina, 73-41. Argentina, Brazil and Cuba still have a shot at the 12-nation Olympic field as they've all qualified to compete in the 2008 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament, scheduled to be played next June at a site TBD. In consolation play Mexico (1-4) earned its first win with a 62-55 victory over Jamaica (0-5) to finish in seventh place, while Canada (3-2) defeated host Chile (2-3) 86-68 for fifth place.
Argentina, Brazil and Cuba, along with nine other national teams from around the globe who did not claim gold at the remaining FIBA zones, including two from Africa (silver and bronze medalists), two from Asia (silver and bronze medalists), four from Europe (second through fourth place finishers) and one from Oceania (silver medalist), will compete for the final five Olympic slots at the 2008 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
"It feels great to have a berth to Beijing and have this behind us," said USA and Seattle Storm head coach Anne Donovan. "But what feels better is where we are right now as a team. I feel so proud with how hard these women have worked and how much it's paid off."
Trailing early, Cuba looked to its 3-point shooters in the second quarter who helped cut the gap to 31-19. However, the USA team simply had too much in their arsenal, hitting shots from inside and outside, mid-range jumpers and layups, even a couple of free throws. By halftime eight different players had contributed to the 49-30 advantage, led by Thompson's 11 points.
"We jumped on them right away," said Donovan. "I thought we stayed focused throughout the game with our bench. It was a really great effort throughout this tournament, five games in five days. We started with the best team in the tournament, we finished with the best team in the tournament. We could see Cuba start to wear down throughout this tournament and that's where our depth and our bench comes into play. If they've been watching us play they had to think twice about how we were going to start this game. We started exactly the way we wanted to and ran the whole game, which is what we wanted to do, keep the pressure on them."
Cuba kept the game within 20 points through the second half's first four minutes (63-43), but the USA utilized a 15-1 run to close the period firmly in command, 78-44, and closed out the game with the gold medal and a ticket to Beijing.