Aug. 25, 2004
ATHENS, Greece – The United States women’s basketball team moved one step closer to earning an Olympic gold medal following a 102-72 victory over the host country, Greece, on Wednesday at the Olympic Indoor Hall in Athens. Former Notre Dame All-America center and 2001 consensus National Player of the Year Ruth Riley saw seven minutes of action in the fourth quarter, but did not score as the Americans extended their winning streak in Olympic competition to 23 games, dating back to the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. With the victory, Team USA advances to Friday’s semifinal round, where it will face Russia, a 70-49 winner over the Czech Republic on Wednesday. The Russians are one of only two teams ever to defeat the U.S. in Olympic play, winning in previous incarnations as the Soviet Union (1976) and the Unified Team (1992). Friday’s game will tip off at 6:30 a.m. South Bend time (2:30 p.m. in Athens) and will be televised live in the United States on the USA network. The winner of that semifinal will play for the gold medal on Saturday, while the loser will compete for the bronze medal, also on Saturday. For the second consecutive game, the American squad went over the century mark, posting its highest offensive output of the Athens Games against Greece. In fact, Team USA had six players score in double figures, led by 21 points from Shannon Johnson and Tina Thompson’s 20 markers. Yolanda Griffith added her second consecutive double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds) as the U.S. shot 57 percent from the floor in the first half and an even 50 percent for the game. The Americans also dominated on defense once again, holding a 44-22 rebounding edge and forcing 19 Greek turnovers, 14 of which came on steals. Unlike many of its preliminary-round games, Team USA got off to a fast start against Greece, scoring the game’s first points on a jumper by Thompson just 14 seconds into the contest. Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes followed with baskets of their own and the U.S. never trailed the entire way. Greece got as close as 19-17 late in the first quarter, but Team USA ended the period on an 8-2 run and the hosts never threatened again, despite playing in front of a partisan crowd of more than 8,000 fans. The U.S. continues to be the cream of this year’s Olympic crop at both ends of the floor, averaging 88.7 points per game while allowing just 59.5 points per night. The Americans also are winning the battle on the boards by nearly a two-to-one margin, owning a +22.3 rpg. average through six games. Riley is the first Notre Dame women’s basketball player to take part in Olympic competition. She also is the first Irish cager of any kind to play in the Olympics since Adrian Dantley won a gold medal with the U.S. squad in 1976. Vince Boryla also took home the gold with the American basketball team in 1948, while Bill Hanzlik never got that chance in 1980 due to a U.S.-led boycott of the Moscow Games.
— ND —