U.S. Women 106, Cuba 58
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ Here’s a measure of the dominance of the U.S. women’s basketball team: It was up by 26 points at halftime against Cuba, and no one on the team was satisfied.
The U.S. women won their 47th straight game Sunday with a 106-58 rout. The Americans coasted to a 58-32 halftime lead. Then, behind crisp passing and tight defense, they opened the second half with an 18-5 run to build a 39-point lead.
Coach Tara VanDerveer said it didn’t take any Knute Rockne halftime speech to fire up her team, which appeared to sleepwalk through the first half.
``They know if they’re not playing the way they should be they’ll go out and someone else will go in,″ she said. ``It’s a very competitive situation. They’re not a hard group to motivate.″
The U.S. team dominated every phase of the game, outshooting the Cubans 50 percent to 28 percent, outrebounding them 55-39 and forcing 27 turnovers that led to 36 points.
Lisa Leslie, the 6-foot-5 forward-center who led the Americans with 17 points, said the team does not pay attention to its winning streak, which started last fall.
``It means nothing to us,″ she said. ``When we go to the Olympics, it’s going to be zero-zero.″
Katrina McClain scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the United States. Ruthie Bolton, celebrating her 29th birthday, added 13 points and three-time Olympian Teresa Edwards had seven points and eight assists. All 12 Americans scored at least four points.
Cuba was led by Licet Castillo with 17 points and and Grisel Herrera with 16.
``They have taller girls,″ Cuban coach Miguel Del Rio said through an interpreter. ``That’s a problem. ... They’re a very potent team.″
The Americans’ next game is against Canada on June 4 in Calgary, Alberta. They open Olympic play against Cuba on July 21.
Cuba, which finished fourth at the 1992 Olympics and is considered a medal contender at the Atlanta Games, came closest to ending the U.S. streak in March, when the Americans escaped with an 81-78 victory.
In their latest matchup, the Cubans provided no such competition.
After U.S. players Bolton and Nikki McCray sang the national anthem, Castillo hit the opening shot for Cuba, then scored on a drive to give her team its last lead, 4-2.
Leslie made a layup and free throw to put the Americans up 9-6 with 17:09 left in the half and they never trailed thereafter.
Leading 15-10, Bolton scored eight points during an 11-3 run in which the Americans doubled the Cubans, 26-13, with 12:49 left in the half. Bolton hit a 3-pointer, a long jumper, a leaner in the lane and a layup.
The Cubans tried a fullcourt press but the Americans easily broke it for layups. For the half, the Americans turned the ball over just six times while forcing 15 from the Cubans and turning them into 17 points.
The Americans closed the half with a 15-5 run in which six players scored, including Rebecca Lobo, who led Connecticut to the NCAA title in 1995.
Castillo scored 12 points in the first half for Cuba. Her teammates shot just 8 of 33 from the field. Leslie and Bolton combined for 24 first-half points on 10-of-13 shooting.
VanDerveer substituted liberally in the second half. The only setback was an injury to guard Jennifer Azzi, who was elbowed in the nose and was to be evaluated.
Del Rio said he was not overly concerned by the lopsided score.
``Through failures you get ahead,″ he said. ``The most important thing is the Olympic Games.″