Candace Parker is her own worst critic and she knows it.
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She’s averaging a double-double in the Olympics and still wants to play better in the women’s basketball tournament. That could be a problem for future opponents.
”As a kid my dad always taught me to do that,” Parker said after the U.S. beat Angola 90-38 on Monday night. ”I think that you expect more of yourself. Everyone on this team expects to play better.
”After the first game we were all disappointed in ourselves. The goal is to continue to get better every game and that’s what we did.”
The 6-foot-4 Los Angeles Sparks star is averaging 12.5 points and 12.5 rebounds to lead the U.S. in both categories.
The Americans will need Parker to continue to get more efficient because they know the competition will get tougher. Next up for the U.S. is Turkey, which is also undefeated.
”Coach (Geno Auriemma) emphasized being confident and playing with intensity,” Parker said. ”That’s my biggest thing is I get into my own head. He just he gave me two things to do, rebound and run the floor.”
And that’s what she did, demanding the ball in the post and running in transition for easy layups.
”We saw a little bit of everything from Candace and Candace can do things no other player can do,” Auriemma said. ”It was a perfect example of what she can do. From the start she was able to get into situations to score before their defense could get into position.”
The game against Angola was expected to be an easy romp, and it was, with the U.S. overwhelming the Olympic newcomer. Team USA also won its opener by 25 against Croatia, but the Americans weren’t happy with that performance. They struggled on offense for the first three quarters before pulling away.
Next up is Turkey on Wednesday.
”It’s definitely about ourselves,” U.S. guard Sue Bird said. ”That’s how coach 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.”
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.
Angola lost its opener against 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. It trailed by 10 after one, and the U.S. put the game away by outscoring the African country 19-6 in the second period. Parker hit two reverse layins 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 for Angola.
Auriemma decided before the game to hold out 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.
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.”
After facing Turkey, 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, China routed Croatia 83-58, Russia beat Brazil 69-59 and Canada edged Britain 73-65. The biggest surprise of the day was France’s 74-70 overtime victory against Australia. It was the first loss by the Aussies to anyone other than the U.S. in an Olympic game since 1996.
”That’s the Olympics, anything can happen on any night,” Bird said.