With its 77-62 win over Belarus Tuesday night, the Chinese women’s basketball team has met coach Tom Maher’s goal of reaching the Olympic semifinals. It is a vast improvement on the team’s ninth-place finish in the 2004 and 1996 Olympics, and its failure to qualify in 2000.
China won despite being outrebounded 41-22; the 27 turnovers by Belarus (to China’s 11) made the difference, and then some.
Though Sui Feifei (隋菲菲) is the team’s most famous player, she scored just 6 points last night, on par with her performance throughout the Olympics. Against Belarus, it was captain Miao Lijie (苗立杰), yet again, who took the game over for China. She led all scorers with 28 points on 71 percent shooting. Miao was key to China’s upset of the United States in an Olympic test event in April, pacing China with 26 points. The 27-year-old point guard from Harbin is quick on the drive and a pesky defender. She’s averaging 19.5 points in the Olympics.
China’s route to the semifinals also included wins over Spain (67-64), New Zealand (80-63) Mali (69-48) and the Czech Republic (79-63). Its only loss came at the hands of the undefeated US team, a 108-63 trouncing.
China will play its semifinal game against Australia Thursday at 8:00 p.m. Beijing time. The teams played each other about two weeks ago in the FIBA Diamond Ball for Women tournament in Haining, with Australia winning by 14 .
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Miao Lijie image: 2008.qq.com