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U.S. women's basketball keeps focus and streak intact

LONDON OLYMPICS

The team's 37th straight Olympic victory, an 88-61 rout over the Czech Republic, leaves players wondering just how good they can get.

August 03, 2012|By K.C. Johnson
  • U.S. forward Angel McCoughtry, left, steals the ball from Czech Republic's Petra Kulichova, center, in front of American teammate Tina Charles during Team USA's 88-61 victory Friday.
U.S. forward Angel McCoughtry, left, steals the ball from Czech Republic's… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

LONDON — Let's play a game of "What If?," since after the Czech Republic's sizzling first quarter, the U.S. women's team didn't have much of a basketball game Friday night.

If the U.S., which improved to 4-0 in pool play with its 88-61 cakewalk at Basketball Arena, could play and practice together for more than the seven weeks they have had, how good could they be?

"Oh, man," U.S. forward Maya Moore said. "That'd be scary."

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Added teammate Candace Parker: "I'd like to think we'd be amazing."

The Americans are doing pretty well as is, running their Olympic win streak to 37 games in a bid for a fifth-consecutive gold medal.

While not exactly setting records equivalent to the men's team's dominance the previous night, Diana Taurasi, who scored a team-high 18 points, tied a U.S. women's Olympic team record with eight three-point attempts, sinking four. And the 62 rebounds snapped the women's team mark of 58, set at the 2004 Athens Olympics against New Zealand.

With only Sunday's contest versus China remaining in pool play, the U.S. has won its games by an average of 33.8 points.

"Everyone keeps asking me why we lost," Czech Republic Coach Lubor Blazek said. "The answer is simple: The U.S. is better."

That's why you have to hand it to the U.S. team, which has the concerned-and-critical routine down pat even in the wake of blowouts.

"If we want to continue to advance, we have to start games better," Tamika Catchings said. "We'll watch tape and get it figured out quickly."

The Czechs did open with a 10-0 run as U.S. Coach Geno Auriemma's new-look lineup of Moore replacing Parker opened with three missed shots and two turnovers. By the end of the first quarter, Czech Republic had made six three-pointers and led, 26-24.

Then the floodgates opened, with Moore and Taurasi wreaking havoc defensively, getting into passing lanes. Though Moore had just one of Team USA's 12 steals, she had numerous deflections to go with her 14 points and eight rebounds.

"That's one reason I wanted to get her in the starting lineup," Auriemma said. "She's just a high-energy player. She plays every possession to the end. And not everybody does that. It's just her makeup."

Tina Charles added 16 points and a team-high 15 rebounds as part of that record-breaking effort on the glass.

"Our depth definitely makes up for us not having a lot of the time together that the other teams are able to have," Charles said. "We have our WNBA teams, playing overseas, so we just have to be mature when we get together. I guess you could say it's like an All-Star team."

kcjohnson@tribune.com

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