China defeats Czech in women's basketball opener
Updated: 2012-07-28 21:07:33
China's Chen Nan (L) and Czech Republic's Ilona Burgrova fight for the ball during the women's Group A basketball match at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the Basketball arena July 28, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]
LONDON - Guard Ma Zengyu was perfect to score 14 out of 16 points in the first half to lead China to a 66-57 victory over the Czech Republic in the opener of the women's basketball competition at the 2012 London Olympic Games on Saturday.
The victory boosted China's chance to advance into the second phase of the tournament as the world runners-up Czech team were tagged as the toughest opponents of Group A except for the six-time champions United States.
One more win could book a berth in the top eight for China, which finished fourth in the Beijing 2008, when they face Croatia, Turkey, the United States and Angola in the following matches.
"I was overwhelmed," said Ma, a 30-year-old veteran who played her first Olympic match. "We started well and my teammates trusted me. They created a lot of opportunities for me and I made the shots."
Ma shot 4-out-of-4 in the field, including three 3-pointers, and made all three free-throws in the first half when China led 36-29.
China extended the lead to as many as 12 points in the third quarter, but saw the lead evaperated in the fourth period when Michaela Zrustova's 3-pointer tied it on 53-53 with 7:33 minutes to go.
Coming back from a timeout, China strengthened defence, preventing the Czech Republic from scoring in almost six minutes.
China built up a 59-53 lead again and carried on to extend the margin to 10 points with less than one minute to go. The Czechs never recovered.
"Usually we are not good in the first game in the Olympics. We shot badly today and there was no communication between the players," Czech's coach Lubor Blazek said.
"This was a contest of speed and size. We won the contest because we controlled the tempo of the game," Chinese coach Sun Fengwu said. "The Czech Republic is a strong team. They have size and shooters. The speed is the only weapon we have and we used it well. They didn't play their usual game."
The first match started 9:00 am as teams had to get up around 6:00 am. Sun said the Chinese had waked up on 6:20 am every day since they came to London to prepare the early match schedule.
Eva Viteckova led the Czech with 14 points.