28 turnovers cause for Olympic concern


NEW YORK -- Despite an easy victory against the WNBA
All-Stars, members of the U.S. Olympic team know they have some
things to work on before the Athens Games.

Lisa Leslie had 15 points and 12 rebounds, and Tamika Catchings
added 12 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Olympians to a 74-58
victory over the WNBA All-Stars on Thursday night at Radio City
Music Hall.

The United States, comprised of most of the best players in the
WNBA, outrebounded the All-Stars 62-30, and outscored them 42-22 in
the paint and 32-9 on second-chance points. However, the Olympians
also committed 28 turnovers.

"Having 20-plus turnovers shows we don't quite have that
chemistry yet,'' Leslie said. "It's our first exhibition game, and
we'll continue to get better. We have to take much better care of
the ball and just continue to make that extra pass.''

Tina Thompson scored 11 points, and Yolanda Griffith had 11
points and a game-high 15 rebounds -- 11 offensive -- for the U.S.
team, expected to dominate at Athens, heads to Europe this weekend.

"We're a better basketball team than we were tonight,'' U.S.
coach Van Chancellor said. "Our defense was excellent. I thought
we were championship caliber. Offensively, we have to work and we
have to cut this rotation out. I played too many five-at-a-time

Mwadi Mabika scored 11 points -- all in the second half -- and
Cheryl Ford added 10 for the WNBA All-Stars, who were overmatched
by their bigger opponents.

The U.S. team shot 38 percent from the field (30-for-80),
including 5-for-19 on 3-pointers. The All-Stars finished at 29
percent (21-for-72), including just 1-for-20 on 3-pointers.

"They played harder than us,'' All-Stars coach Bill Laimbeer
said. "We couldn't score. We had lots of open looks. There was
nothing that they did to us that stopped us from scoring, except
our own missed shots.''

Although the game was played under WNBA rules, the larger
international ball -- 30.7 inches in circumference, compared to 29
inches used in league play -- was used to help the Olympians in
their preparation.

"The big ball was a very big factor, not only for us, but for
them, too,'' Laimbeer said. "They have only 'x' amount of time --
two weeks -- to get used to playing with the heavier ball on the
perimeter shots.''

The Olympians led 39-20 at halftime, largely due to a 30-8 run
over a 13½ minute stretch in the opening period. They built their
lead to 27 points, 56-29, on a 3-pointer by Shannon Johnson with
just under 11 minutes left.

"I had a lot of fun tonight,'' the All-Stars' Becky Hammon
said. "I think it was nice for them to go against somebody else as
a team instead of banging around each other in practice.

"We tried to throw a few things at them, too. ... Some zone,
some traps, so hopefully it helped them work on what they need

Both teams struggled with their shooting initially. The
All-Stars opened 1-for-6, while the Olympians were 1-for-7 over the
first three minutes. The first half was very physical, with both
teams diving on the floor and fighting for loose balls.

After Taj McWilliams-Franklin's three-point play cut the
All-Stars' deficit to 9-8 4½ minutes into the game, the United
States went on their run heading into the final minute of the first
half. The spurt was started when the Olympians' second team entered
the game.

"We wanted to make a difference,'' said Sue Bird, headed to her
first Olympics. "For us, that means coming in and trying to make
some plays and really hold down the fort until those other players
get back in the game. We did a good job of that tonight.''

The famous Rockettes were involved in the festivities,
performing at halftime.

The U.S. team, playing without the injured Sheryl Swoopes and
Katie Smith, wore their national team uniforms, while the All-Stars
each wore their road uniforms.

The United States -- 13-0 earlier this year in exhibitions
against international and professional club teams -- will face
France on Sunday in the opener of a two-day tournament in
Salamanca, Spain, before beginning Olympic play against New Zealand
on August 14.