Now it’s the women’s turn
BEIJING -- As members of the men’s team did for them the previous night, players from the U.S. women’s Olympic basketball team stopped by to cheer on their counterparts Sunday night.
But the women weren’t merely repaying a favor. They were surveying the scene.
Twenty-four hours after the Olympic Basketball Gymnasium turned into a madhouse while the U.S. men were beating China, 101-70, the U.S. women face the same opponent in what probably will be an equally raucous setting.
To say they were looking forward to the atmosphere is like saying four-time Olympian Lisa Leslie is a veteran.
“This place is going to be packed,” guard Diana Taurasi said. “The crowd is going to be off the chain.”
For the U.S. women’s team’s quest for a fourth straight gold medal to stay on track, it must subdue a Chinese team that defeated Spain in its first game. It must also bring its track shoes.
“China is very quick and athletic, loves to get up and down and loves to penetrate and kick,” forward Tamika Catchings said. “That’s their game. They’re able to hit a lot of threes off penetration and kicking the ball. So for us, it’s going to be really important to continue to apply pressure and contain them and keep them in front of us.”
Team USA is coming off a 40-point victory over the Czech Republic in its opening game, in which it scored 97 points. Fast-paced games don’t faze them, and triple-digit scoreboard possibilities entice Taurasi.
“China gets after it, but that’s what I’m conditioned to do, get up and down,” she said. “If anything, that’s when I think we’re at our peak. If you think about it, in the starting five, we have three point guards with Sue [Bird], Katie [Smith] and I. We just get it and go and when we get up and down, we can utilize how versatile everyone is.”
Coach Anne Donovan said that the new Chinese coach, Australian Tom Maher, has changed the style of the host country’s program. Beyond the emphasis on fastbreak opportunities, the Chinese also work to switch aggressively on virtually every screen.
A high-scoring game could whip the home country’s passionate fans into a frenzy. The Americans insist this won’t disrupt their focus.
“We already know coming in that everybody is going to root against us,” guard Cappie Pondexter said. “That’s all right. We just have to focus in on us and not worry about anything that’s going on on the outside.”