Another game, another blowout for the U.S. women’s basketball team — not that the score matters to them.
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That sounds like the right thing to say after Candace Parker had 14 points and 12 rebounds to lead the U.S. to a 90-38 rout of Angola on Monday night.
But the Americans aren’t just being politically correct.
They know they are still a work in progress, having only been together training for two weeks, and are going to play some tough games during the tournament.
”The goal is to continue to get better every game and I think that was what we did” against Angola, Parker said. ”I think we’re continuing to work on things that no matter what the scoreboard can help us down the line.”
The game against Angola was expected to be an easy romp — and it was — with the U.S. overwhelming the Olympic newcomer.
”It’s definitely about ourselves,” U.S. guard Sue Bird said. ”That’s how coach (Geno) Auriemma coaches in college. It’s his philosophy. Never about how much you win by or lose by, it’s how we played. Especially in a game like tonight where going in we kind of had a feeling it might be like this. Not to play to the score, not to relax.
”This is an opportunity for us to play together and we need to take advantage of every opportunity we get.”
Parker finished with her second double-double of the tournament. She is averaging 12.5 points and 12.5 rebounds.
The Americans (2-0) have won their last 35 games in the Olympics and four consecutive gold medals while Angola is looking for its first victory. The team lost its opener to Turkey by 22 points meaning African nations have only won one of their 25 games in the Olympics since Congo — formerly known as Zaire — first qualified in the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Nigeria owns the only victory, beating Korea by four points in 2004.
The Americans had played African teams twice and routed them both. The U.S. beat Zaire by 60 points in 1996 and then Mali by 56 at the Beijing Games in 2008.
Angola (0-2) did fare a little better than its continental neighbors. The team stayed close to the Americans for the first quarter, only trailing by 10 at the end of the period. Then the U.S. put the game away outscoring the African country 19-6 in the second period. Parker hit two reverse lay-ins in the quarter.
The Americans continued the rout in the second half. The strong crowd which had witnessed some very competitive games all day, emptied out early in the final period knowing the outcome wasn’t in doubt.
”We decided we want to enjoy the game, we understood before the difference in the standard,” Angola coach Anibal Moreira said. ”We feel a lot of pride to be able to play against such a team, who are idols for our players. We hoped to get to 50 points but we didn’t succeed.”
Sonia Guadalupe scored 11 points to lead Angola.
Auriemma decided before the game not to play center Sylvia Fowles, who has a sore left foot.
”I tweaked it a little bit yesterday in practice and I gave it a go this morning and it didn’t feel quite right so we’re just resting it and playing it safe,” Fowles said.
It didn’t matter as the 6-foot-4 Parker looked confident on the floor, demanding the ball in the post and running the floor for easy layups.
The game was a contrast for the U.S. from its opener when the Americans struggled on offense for the first three quarters before pulling away from Croatia.
Despite the lopsided final score, Auriemma has been impressed in the growth of women’s basketball that he’s seen in Angola and other African countries.
”Angola’s one of those countries you hope, because of what’s happened with the U.S. and some other places in women’s basketball, that other African countries pick up and say that could be us,” Auriemma said. ”Hopefully that’s a country that becomes accustomed to playing in the Olympics. Hopefully they devote more energy and resources and they can come back to the Olympics on a regular basis.”
Next up for the U.S. is Turkey, which improved to 2-0 in pool play with a 61-57 victory over the Czech Republic. The Americans also will face China and the Czech Republic. The U.S. beat the Czechs in the finals of the 2010 world championship to qualify for the London Games.
Also Monday, France shocked Australia 74-70 in OT. It was the first loss by the Aussies to anyone other than the U.S. in an Olympic game since 1996. China routed Croatia 83-58, Russia beat Brazil 69-59, and Canada edged Britain 73-65.