UConn Trio Help U.S.A. Stay Undefeated

The United States women's Olympic basketball team cruised through the preliminary round topping all five teams in their bracket by an average of 29 points to gain that group's top seed in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, August 25, 2004.

The Huskies' trio of Sue Bird ('02), Swin Cash ('02) and Diana Taurasi ('04) and their teammates will face the host Greek team at 7:30 p.m. (EDT).

Greece is led by Evanthia Maltsi who is averaging 20.4 ppg. Lisa Leslie (USC / L.A. Sparks) tops the U.S. with 17.8 ppg. The game will be broadcast on the USA Network.

Taurasi had a breakout game off the bench on Sunday with a team-best 19 points in the 100-62 romp over 2003 Asian Championship gold medalist China. Cash added eight points and six rebounds and Bird's game high five assists for U.S.A.'s fifth victory in as many days. Spain captured the group B's second seed edged South Korea (0-5) 64-61 in a game that saw seven ties and 12 lead changes. Australia is the number one seed in the other group.

"(Yesterday) I felt good," said Taurasi. "Sometimes when you are in a game, it comes to you and it just kind of came to me. I was playing a little more aggressive, but for the most part I just try to play. It was a tough game to play knowing it really didn't decide anything standing wise. But we still wanted to come out and play well. Every game is important from here." Averaging 17.5 mpg, Diana was on the floor for 26 minutes Sunday.

"We are like a well-oiled machine," Bird said. "We keep going. We haven't played with each other all that much, prior to the Olympics. It's only natural that the more you play together, the better you are going to get and the more comfortable you are going to be with each other. We are really clicking."

The tournament moves from Helliniko Indoor Arena to the 19,250-seat Olympic Indoor Hall for the medal round. With Greece as the opponent, this will be a road game in every sense for the Americans. The three other quarterfinals contests include Russia (A2) against the Czech Republic (B3), Spain (B2) will face Brazil (A3) and Australia (A1) meets New Zealand (BR). The winners will advance to the Aug. 27 semifinals.

The biggest question for U.S.A. will be the status of reserve guard Katie Smith (Ohio State / Minnesota Lynx). Checking into the game at 5:59 in the first quarter, Smith played two minutes before suffering a right knee sprain. An MRI will was scheduled for today. The game will feature an interesting match-up between Temple's head coach and Dawn Staley (Virginia / Charlotte Sting) against former Temple forward Athena Christoforaki of the Greek team.

Taurasi and Cash are each averaging 8.2 ppg at the Olympics. Cash is third with 5.6 rpg. Bird, who was interviewed Thursday for the WNBA,com website (more), is adding 3.4 ppg and 1.6 apg.

The WNBA resumes action on September 1st. Bird is the second highest scorer for the Seattle Storm with 11.8 ppg, is second in the league with 5.3 apg and adds 3.0 rpg. Cash leads the defending champion Detroit Shock with 17.0 ppg and adds 6.7 rpg, 4.4 apg and 1.4 spg. She also leads the WNBA in total minutes and free throws made per 40 minutes (5.6). And Taurasi, in her rookie season with Phoenix, leads the Mercury with 16.5 ppg and 3.6 apg; she's fifth in the league with 20.1 points per 40 minutes.

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