United States 81, Canada 74
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) _ Katy Steding’s 3-pointer with barely a minute left helped the United States Olympic team fight off an upset bid and defeat Canada 81-74 Friday night in an exhibition women’s basketball game.
It was the 49th straight victory for the American, who are favored to win the gold medal at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta. But it nearly turned into a huge embarrassment.
The diligent Canadians took advantage of untimely fouls and poor shooting by the U.S. squad and led until 15:40 of the second half. A 12-4 run by the Americans deadlocked the game at 64, and Steding’s 3-pointer gave the Americans a three-point lead.
Lisa Leslie of Inglewood, Calif., had 17 and Ruthie Bolton of McClain, Miss., scored 13 for the Americans.
``They’re tough, but they do have weaknesses,″ said guard Shawna Molcak, who led Canada with 17 points. ``In the first half and up to the end of the game, we got to their weaknesses. Then we just sat back on our heels.″
``When we play good team defense, we transfer it over to offense,″ Canadian coach Peter Ennis said. ``We’re smarter and more patient. Maybe we saw the win ... maybe we looked over at the clock and thought this would be exciting, beating this dream team.″
Diane Norman paced Canada to a surprise 44-32 half-time lead with 11 points and five rebounds, fighting a vicious battle down low with towering American forwards Leslie and Carla McGhee.
Accuracy helped, too.
While Canada shot a respectable 50 percent from the field during the opening half, the U.S. struggled at a miserable 29.4, allowing the hosts 13-4 and 9-3 sprees in the final 10 minutes.
But most stunning of all, they held the normally dominant Sheryl Swoopes to two points for the entire game. Swoopes had scored 17 points against Canada in a Tuesday win in Calgary, Alberta, but played with a sore knee on Friday.
``She’s not on her game, and she’s not giving us what we need from her and what she’s capable of right now,″ said U.S. coach Tara VanDerveer.