Luca Ivankovic, right, of Croatia and Tina Charles of the U.S. vie for a rebound. (Richard Heathcote / Getty…)
LONDON--Congrats on winning 34 in a row?
The U.S. women's basketball team has dominated the Olympics since 1996 and beat Croatia last week in an exhibition by 54 points.
So it was surprising to see the U.S. stumble for three quarters before emphatically beating Croatia, 81-56, Saturday in an Olympic opener.
The U.S. was awful on offense most of the game and led by exactly four points with 9:02 to play at the Olympic Park basketball arena.
PHOTOS: U.S. defeats Croatia, 81-56
Not a great start in pursuit of a fifth consecutive gold medal.
But reserves Angel McCoughtry and Swin Cash led a 16-0 run to push the U.S. to a 69-49 lead with 5:58 to play.
McCoughtry had back-to-back baskets down low and Cash added a three-point play. Croatia never threatened again. The U.S. won the fourth quarter, 28-9.
McCoughtry finished with 13 points. Tina Charles had 14 points and Candace Parker had 11 for the U.S.
Croatia actually led, 26-23, on Jelena Ivezic's three-pointer with 2:50 left in the second quarter. The U.S. managed to take a 31-28 halftime edge.
Croatia was scoreless until eight minutes into the game but rallied with a slew of three-pointers. Ivezic had 11 points in the first half and finished with 22.
In Team USA's 109-55 victory last week, one of Croatia's top players, Marija Vrsaljko, missed the game because she was getting married. Vrsaljko had 19 points Saturday.
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