Jillian Harmon Propels New Zealand Past Mali, 76-72, In Olympic Opener
Aug. 9, 2008
BEIJING, China - New Zealand got some Stanford power Friday night as Jillian Harmon made her Olympic debut with 12 points and a team-high eight rebounds, leading the Tall Ferns to a 76-72 victory over Mali in Group B play. Harmon started the contest, scoring New Zealand's first points of the Olympics, and in the game's final minute grabbed a key rebound that allowed the Tall Ferns to hold off a late Mali rally.
Clare Bodensteiner `06, also representing Stanford on the New Zealand team, saw a minute of action, grabbing an offensive rebound and missing her only three-point attempt.
Harmon shot 5-of-12 from the field in the contest, in addition to a 2-for-3 showing from the free-throw line.
After holding leads of 42-33 at halftime and 60-54 after three periods, the Tall Ferns allowed Mali to take a brief lead in the final period before rallying for the win.
Forty-four seconds into the contest, Harmon drove the right side of the paint and bodied her way to the hoop for a layup in traffic, opening the game's scoring. Yet she was subbed out after quickly picking up a pair of personal fouls in the first 3:06 of the contest, returning to action at the start of the second period.
Bodensteiner and Harmon opened the second period on the floor for the Tall Ferns, each grabbing an offensive board in the opening minutes. With just under five minutes to go in the first half and New Zealand trailing 27-25, Harmon provided another highlight play by grabbing a loose ball just before half court and taking it all the way through the paint between three Mali defenders for the tying layup.
In the second half, with the Tall Ferns holding on to a slim 43-41 lead, Harmon got behind her defender in the paint and converted a layup under the hoop despite being fouled on the play. The subsequent bonus free throw completed her three-point play, and New Zealand had a bit of breathing room with a five-point advantage.
Harmon scored her final four points in the final period, culminating her scoring with a another impression drive into the lane and two-foot jumper over a pair of Mali defenders. The bucket drew the Tall Ferns even at 66-66 with 3:49 to play.
With the two teams slugging it out in the final minutes, New Zealand led 74-71 with Mail's Nagnouma Coulibaly at the line and 54 seconds to play. After making the first of her two free throws, Coulibaly missed her second off the left side of the rim, and Harmon was there to grab the board. New Zealand would go on to sink a pair of free throws on the other end to take a two-possession lead and provide the final margin.
The Tall Ferns will next battle Spain Saturday evening at 6 p.m. PT. The contest can be seen on the NBC Olympic Basketball Channel, and fans may also view the contest live and on tape-delay by visiting www.nbcolympics.com.