Czech Republic 57, United States 97



8:00 AM ET
August 9, 2008

U.S. women open with blowout of Czech Republic

Updated: August 20, 2008, 11:24 PM ET

BEIJING (AP) -- With President Bush and the first family looking on, the United States women's basketball team began its quest for a fourth-straight gold medal with a rout of the Czech Republic.

Diana Taurasi scored 13 of her 17 points in the first half to lead the U.S. to a 97-57 victory in the opener Saturday night.

Sylvia Fowles

Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

Sylvia Fowles, who had 16 points and 14 rebounds, said that with President Bush in the crowd watching, "Now I feel like an Olympian."

The Americans got off to a slow start, trailing 13-2 after giving up layup after layup to the feisty Czech team. Taurasi finally got the team rolling, much to the pleasure of Bush, who was dressed in a blue shirt and USA cap. Taurasi's layup ignited a 20-4 run by the U.S. to close the first quarter.

"Sometimes you think things are going to be easy from the get-go and they're not," Taurasi said. "We're playing against very good teams that have been together for a long time."

The U.S. continued the run in the second quarter behind Cappie Pondexter, who scored seven of her 12 points in the period. Her 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Americans a 49-31 lead at halftime.

The Americans continued the onslaught in the third quarter using a 22-5 run to put the game out of reach. The U.S. led 75-44 at the end of the third, sending the president, his wife, Laura, and daughter Barbara home. Bush waved to the crowd as he left at the end of the third quarter.

"It was awesome, I know he had to leave early," said Lisa Leslie, who is looking to become the first basketball player to win four straight gold medals. "It's an honor that he came out and watched us perform and that he is a fan of the women's basketball team."

Sylvia Fowles scored 14 of her 16 points in the second half for the U.S. to go with 14 rebounds.

"Just to come out here tonight and see how many fans were supporting us and that our president was out here was good," Fowles said. "Now I feel like an Olympian."

Eva Viteckova had 12 points to lead the Czech Republic, which will face Mali in its next game.

Even with the first family in attendance, the biggest cheer from the crowd was for the U.S. men's basketball team, which was sitting behind the basket watching the game. At the half, the Chinese fans went through a roll call of the U.S. players, who obliged by standing and bowing, to the delight of the fans.

"We knew the men's team was going to come today," Leslie said. "They were saying all day, 'We're going to come, we're going to come.' "

Up next for the women is host China, which beat Spain 67-64 in its first game.

China beat the U.S. 84-81 in the gold-medal game of the Good Luck Beijing test event in April. The Chinese team was at full strength for the event, while the American roster only had four players who are currently playing in the Olympics.

"We gained some confidence, but know that the Americans were at half-strength," Chinese coach Tom Maher said. "We have nothing to lose in this game, all the pressure is on them."