It's a good thing for the U.S. women's basketball players that they weren't near a television set at halftime of their semifinal game against Australia on Thursday.
That's because NBC analyst Lisa Leslie, who speaks with four gold medals worth of credibility, directly questioned the team's heart in her assessment of a first half where Australia led 47-43.
Australia, she said, "is just playing hungry. They want it more right now." Later, the NBC Sports Network showed a clip of Australian Liz Cambage making a layup through defense Leslie said was so porous that her grandmother could have scored on the play.
If American soccer player Hope Solo took to Twitter to mutter about NBC's Brandi Chastain's harsh assessment of the team's defense, what might she have thought about a statement as strong as Leslie's?
Game analyst Ann Meyers took an easy way out, saying sometimes players appreciate a close game.
"Sometimes as a player when you're in this type of game your adrenaline gets flowing and you've got to come to play," she said.
Judging by U.S. coach Geno Auriemma's expression, he would have greatly preferred a blowout. Considering Cambage scored 16 points in the first half and none in the second, it's a good bet his halftime language was pretty harsh, too. The U.S. team won 86-73 to advance to the gold medal game, primarily on the strength of its second-half defense.
RATINGS: Nielsen said that 29.1 million people watched NBC's Wednesday night coverage, highlighted by the beach volleyball gold medal match with Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings. For the 12th time in 13 nights, NBC had a bigger audience than the corresponding night in Beijing, which had 24.8 million viewers.