Tuesday, August 21, 2012

London's Biggest Secret: USA Women's basketball 39 game winning streak

by Megan Hickok,
Covering the London Olympics
LONDON, England -- Carmelo Anthony rewrote history with his 37-point Olympic performance against Nigeria. The team also shattered the overall scoring record with 156 points the same night. The roster has a combined 43 All-Star appearances. They even survived a scare against Lithuania, winning by just three points.
However, these aren’t even the greatest statistics of the Olympics. Their female counterparts stole that honor.
Following Tuesday’s 91-48 victory over Canada, the USA women’s basketball team continues  its 39 Olympic game winning streak. The streak has strengthened ticket sales, and viewers are up by more than 50 percent from Beijing in 2008, according to the Associated Press.

Photo by Jacob Corrigan
Maya Moore, University of Conneticut legend, answers reporters questions about team chemistry.
Maya Moore said the atmosphere among the new team members is supportive.
“We don’t really get the chance to play with each other a lot so we enjoy it when we’re around each other,” said Moore. “Everybody treats everybody well, and it’s a great group to be a part of.”
This 2011 WNBA No. 1 draft pick said she looks up to the experienced captains as she takes part in her first Olympic competition.
“All of our captains lead,’ said Moore. “They have been around and take the initiative whether it’s helping somebody handle something off the court or whether it’s the middle of the game.”
Veterans Candace Parker, Sue Bird and Tamika Catchings fill their captain roles well, said Coach Geno Auriemma, head coach of Team USA and the University of Connecticut women’s team.
“They have been great leaders as well as being great players,” said Auriemma. “We have five new players that have never been to the Olympics that are great followers so it’s been a pretty good combination.”
With six wins under Team USA’s belt, the coaching staff quickly realized they got an A+ in chemistry with these girls.
“Chemistry is huge and getting people that don’t care more about themselves is huge in the selection process,” said Assistant Coach Doug Bruno. “We wanted people who cared about the big picture.”
Bruno, women’s basketball coach at DePaul University, said Auriemma puts a strong focus on team building over the few weeks they are together.
“We have the most talented players in the world,” he said. “We just don’t have the longest opportunity to get them together.”
Although Wednesday marked only the team’s 11th practice, they already harmonize on the court.
“Offensively we have great talent, but the offensive chemistry takes time so we have to be able to use our athleticism and depth to create offense out of our defense,” said Bruno.
The women recognized this against Canada as the defense forced three shot clock violations for Canada in the first seven minutes. USA also forced 26 turnovers. This suffocating defense unified the team, said Moore.

Photo by Jacob Corrigan
Coach Geno directs Maya Moore, #7, on how to run the play. This is the team’s last practice before facing Australia.
“It did a lot for us,” she said. “It built our confidence about who we can be defensively and helped us to go into the next game knowing that if we execute our game plan we can accomplish a lot.”
Succeeding at this level means being better defensively, Auriemma said. The USA women must contain Australia’s 6-foot-8 Liz Cambage and 6-5 Lauren Jackson to head to their fifth straight gold medal game. Australia is also one of the favorites to appear in the gold medal game and will represent the U.S. team’s toughest test so far in London.
“I never go into any tournament or game expecting the scores to be what they’ve been,” said Auriemma.
With attention and pressure rising for the women’s team as they approach the semi-finals, some for the first time in their careers, it’s all about focus on the task right in front of them, according to the coaching staff.
“It’s just business as usual,” said Moore.

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