LONDON - Four years ago they became the first LSU women's basketball players to win a gold medal at the Olympics. Today, their goal remains the same - bringing a fifth straight Olympic gold medal back to the United States in the sport of women's basketball.
Former LSU stars Seimone Augustus (Team USA bio) and Sylvia Fowles (Team USA bio) lead a talented U.S. National Team into London as the Americans begin quest for another gold medal against Croatia in the opening round of the 2012 Olympic Games at 10:45 a.m. CT Saturday.
The contest will be televised live on NBC and all games during the Olympics will be streamed on www.NBCOlympics.com. A complete viewing schedule is below. Game action can be followed through the LSU women's basketball Twitter page (@LSUwbkb) or USA Basketball (@USABasketball).
Of the 12-player U.S. National team roster, three schools have multiple players on the squad. Joining LSU in that category is Tennessee with two and Connecticut with six. No former LSU women's basketball history has ever won multiple Olympic gold medals.
"I can't say enough of how proud we are of Seimone and Sylvia in carrying the LSU Olympic torch," said Lady Tiger head coach Nikki Caldwell, who will serve as assistant on the USA U18 team later this summer. "The Olympic legacy at LSU -- going back to Coach (Sue) Gunter -- is a level of excellence every player who comes to this program aspires to reach. We will be watching and cheering them on."
For Augustus and Fowles to achieve gold again, Team USA will have to take on several talented teams in the preliminary round. The quarterfinals will be played on Tuesday, Aug. 7 followed by the semifinals on Thursday, Aug. 9. The London gold medal game will be played on Saturday, Aug. 11 at 3 p.m. CT live on NBC.
"I think we are going to have a lot of energy by the time our first game rolls around," said Augustus, the two-time National College Player of the Year at LSU." At first it might be a little crazy, a little scattered or whatever, because of the jitters of being here. But at some point, I think we will settle down and smooth out into a great basketball team."
Augustus and Fowles arrived in London with the rest of the American team on Tuesday. The squad breezed through its Olympic tune-up schedule, which included a double-digit blowout of Croatia. After a few days of training, sightseeing and press conferences, Team USA met First Lady Michelle Obama on Friday morning and attended the opening ceremonies later that evening.
Both Augustus and Fowles have carried their strong WNBA starts into Olympic play. In five exhibition games, Fowles ranked second on the team in both scoring (10.8 ppg) and rebounding (5.2 rpg). Augustus came off the bench for 10.4 points per contest.
Since the 2008 Beijing Games, it's been quite a journey for Augustus. The Baton Rouge native suffered a torn ACL in 2009 followed by the removal of non-cancerous fibroids in her abdomen in 2010.
Cut from the 2010 U.S. team, Augustus overcome her setbacks in spectacular fashion. The 2011 WNBA season was the crowning achievement of her career as she was named WNBA Finals MVP in leading the Minnesota Lynx to a world championship crown.
"I think over the last two years she's worked herself back into the team and has overcome more than any other player that we have," said U.S. head coach Geno Auriemma. "I feel a strong sense of commitment and obligation to her to kind of reward her for how hard she has worked. I'm really, really proud of her."
Fowles has in essence carried the Olympic legacy torch from Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson, who were the dominant post presences of previous U.S. teams. Fowles will form a front line that includes Candace Parker and Tina Charles.
"We're going to get better as we go along," said Fowles, who is averaging 18.5 points and 12.4 rebounds this season for the Chicago Sky. "London will be beautiful to have me, Tina and Candace together. Once we start getting more comfortable with each other, that high-low post game will be dangerous."
Team USA is on a 33-game Olympic winning streak, dating back to the 1992 bronze medal game. Overall in Olympic play the Americans are 50-3 since women's basketball was added to the slate in 1976.
The last time the United States did not return from the Olympics with a gold medal was those 1992 Games in Barcelona, but Augustus knows nothing can be taken for granted on the game's highest stage.
"We understand what's at stake and what we need to do. These players have been doing this for years. I've been in the USA pool since I was 15 years old, and it's the same for most other players, so we understand the expectations and what we need to do."
2012 U.S. Women's Basketball Olympic Schedule
All times are Central
Saturday, July 28, 10:45 a.m., USA vs. Croatia, NBC
Monday, July 30, 4:15 p.m., USA vs. Angola, NBC Basketball Channel
Wednesday, Aug. 1, 4:15 p.m., USA vs. Turkey, NBC Sports Network
Friday, Aug. 3, 4:15 p.m., USA vs. Czech Republic, NBC Sports Network
Sunday, Aug. 5, 10:45 a.m., USA vs. China, NBC
Tuesday, Aug. 7, 8 a.m. or 2 p.m., Quarterfinals, NBC Sports Network
Thursday, Aug. 9, 11 a.m. or 3 p.m., Semifinals, NBC Sports Network and MSNBC
Saturday, Aug. 11, 3 p.m., Gold Medal Game, NBC