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ATHENS 2004 | WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

Leslie Takes Control as U.S. Wins, 80-57

August 19, 2004|Helene Elliott | Times Staff Writer

ATHENS — The line of succession has been established.

The day Lisa Leslie can no longer dominate inside, Ruth Riley will step into her role with the U.S. national and Olympic teams. That's why Riley, a center with the WNBA's Detroit Shock, is backing up the 32-year-old Spark center on the Olympic squad.

"It would definitely be an honor, and it would take a lot of work on my part over the next four years," Riley said.

Or maybe longer, because Leslie shows no sign of fading.

Leslie simply took over Wednesday as the U.S. women's team brushed aside South Korea, a team with speed and sharp outside shooting. Leslie made 11 of 13 shots and scored a game-high 25 points, to go with seven rebounds and three blocks, as the U.S. rallied from an early deficit to run off with an 80-57 victory.

"Why do you think I call her the Big Dawg?" U.S. Coach Van Chancellor said. "When the time comes, the Big Dawg will hunt."

Leslie scored seven of the U.S. women's first nine points in the second quarter, all on drives or strength moves the Koreans couldn't stop. Although the U.S. women trailed, 23-20, after the first quarter, they regrouped efficiently.

After South Korea pulled within 33-32 with 2:42 left in the second quarter, the U.S. women outscored them, 25-2, in a wave that lasted until 4:17 remained in the third quarter.

"I wouldn't say we had a slow start," Leslie said. "They came out shooting threes, and it's hard to trade two for three [points]. I really love it when we pick up full court."

This is Leslie's third Olympics, and she hasn't ruled out playing at Beijing in 2008.

"Just say I feel really good, knock wood," she said, rapping her knuckles against her head.

She also welcomes being challenged by Riley, as well as the chance to mentor younger players.

"That's what USA Basketball is all about, to pass our knowledge from one generation to the next," Leslie said.

Tina Thompson had 18 points for the Americans, who will play Spain on Friday. Both teams are 3-0.

"That's going to be a challenge for us," Chancellor said.

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Getting the Bugs Out

Every opponent hits the U.S. women's basketball team with its best shot right out of the gate, but Van Chancellor's team has had the answer each time:

AUG. 14 VS. NEW ZEALAND

The start: Only 1:49 into the game, New Zealand led, 7-0.

Bouncing back: Chancellor subbed all five of his starters midway through the first quarter with the U.S. trailing, 10-8. The U.S. rolled to a 28-13 lead by the end of the quarter.

Final score: U.S. 99, New Zealand 47

AUG. 16 VS. CZECH REPUBLIC

The start: Faced with a physical opponent, the U.S. trailed, 21-12, late in the first quarter.

Bouncing back: Taking advantage of the foul trouble of three of the Czech's inside players, the U.S. dominated the boards in putting together a 32-7 run for a 58-37 lead midway through the third quarter.

Final score: U.S. 80, Czech Republic 61

AUG. 18 VS. SOUTH KOREA

The start: South Korea made five three-pointers to take a 23-20 lead after one quarter.

Bouncing back: Wearing the Koreans down by working the ball inside to Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson, the U.S. went on a 25-2 streak from late in the second quarter to midway through the third for a 58-34 lead.

Final score: U.S. 80, South Korea 57

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