In their opening game of the 2007 FIBA Americas Championships, the U.S. Senior Women’s National Team was tested by Cuba. The U.S. trailed 58-55 after three quarters and the game was tied at 71-all with a little more than four minutes to play.
A veteran guard keyed the decisive U.S. run. Katie Smith hit back-to-back three-pointers to untie the game as the U.S. went on a 11-2 run over the next two-plus minutes to take command of the game. The U.S. Women held on for an 85-79 victory.
“I’m glad I could do my part,” Smith said after the game. “It gave us a little energy when it was needed, but I got some good picks from my teammates in that zone, Sue (Bird) got me the ball and I’m just glad I was able to contribute and do my part. It kind of got us on a little bit of a roll, gave us a little bit of a cushion in the home stretch. Then everyone else helped take it home.”
Bird and Head Coach Anne Donovan both lauded the Cuban team, which got 23 points and 10 rebounds from post Yakelyn Tizon.
“Cuba is probably the second or third best team in this tournament,” said Bird. “To play them in the first game, we knew it was going to be a challenge and we knew it was going to be a test and I’m glad we passed.”
“I think it was a great win for us,” added Donovan. “Cuba is a great team and we’ve known that for a long time, they’re very solid. The difference between this game and games in the past is that we’ve come out strong and shot the ball real well in the first quarter to make them lose their confidence in themselves. Tonight that wasn’t the case and they kept their confidence throughout the game. I have to hand it to Cuba, they played a great game. You could see how well they play together and then give credit for us for pulling that nice win out with good execution in the fourth quarter.”
Bird led the U.S. attack, scoring six points and handing out nine assists in 28 minutes of action.
“Sue did a great job of controlling this game and keeping everyone into it, focused and trying to fight through some pretty bad shooting,” said Donovan.
Tennessee forward Candace Parker scored a team-high 21 points, while Diana Taurasi – fresh off a WNBA Championship – scored 16. Veterans Smith and Tina Thompson scored 13 points apiece.
In other Day 1 action, Canada handed Jamaica a 68-47 defeat despite 25 points and seven rebounds from long-time Storm post Simone Edwards. Brazil was leading Argentina 67-59 at last check, with Iziane Castro Marques leading all scorers with 19 points.
The U.S. Women take on Jamaica tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. Pacific. Adam Hirshfield’s live blog will have coverage and you can also check out FIBA’s live stats if you’re unable to watch all the action on NBA TV.