Sunday, July 22, 2012
Seimone Augustus keys U.S. victory
ISTANBUL -- After breezing through its first few exhibition games, Geno Auriemma was happy that his team was tested.
Seimone Augustus and Diana Taurasi each scored 16 points to lead the U.S. women's basketball team to an 80-61 victory over Turkey on Sunday.
Where the first three exhibitions were pretty much over in the first quarter, Turkey hung tough for 30 minutes before the U.S. slowly started to pull away.
"I think it's better for us," Auriemma said. "We had to make plays, we had to get stops and they are a really, really good team. We gave them a lot of life. We missed a lot of opportunities that would have made it much easier for us. Maybe in the long run that's better, too.
"It's easy to win when you shoot 70 percent, another thing when you shoot 35 percent in the first half and are able to beat a really good team by 19."
It was the final tuneup for the Americans before the Olympics start next weekend. The U.S. will train for two more days in Istanbul before heading to London on Wednesday.
"They exposed some of our flaws and weaknesses and we have four more practices to fix them and then we're on the big stage," Auriemma said.
The U.S. struggled against its hosts, who were buoyed by a spirited crowd which booed and whistled every time the Americans touched the ball.
Turkey hung tough with the top-ranked team in the world in the first meeting between the countries.
"Turkey's a really good team. A lot of us have played here, played against them," Taurasi said. "They don't fear anyone. They went into the game with a really good game plan. They'll be a tough team in London. For us it was good to be tested like that and see some of the resolve we have."
Taurasi was one of six American players who have played in Turkey and she knows all about the fierce rivalry between teams Fenerbahce and Galatasaray.
She started with Fenerbahce before switching over to Galatasaray. Taurasi was playing for Fenerbahce in 2010 when she was provisional suspended for using a banned substance. The suspension was lifted nearly two months later when the lab that returned the positive test retracted its report.
When she returned to Turkey last season, she changed to rival Galatasaray.
Augustus, Tina Charles, Sylvia Fowles and Tamika Catchings have played for Galatasaray, while Angel McCoughtry suited up for rival Fenerbahce.
Think Connecticut-Tennessee and magnify that by 100, according to Tamika Catchings, who received a stuffed bear from one of the Gala fans Saturday night before the Americans' rout of Croatia.
"It's a different level," said Catchings, who turned 33 on Saturday. "You grow up liking a team because of your heritage. They grow up diehard fans. They know the chants. They know everything. Going to another team is unthinkable."
While the Americans will be aiming for their fifth straight gold medal, Turkey will be playing in its first Olympics next week. The Turks qualified by beating Argentina in the final qualifying tournament they hosted last month.
"I'm trying not to think about it because I don't want to get overwhelmed. It's going to be the first for all of us. At one point it's going to be a little emotional," said Quanitra Hollingsworth, who led Turkey with 16 points. "Come game time we'll have to be ready to work."
Hollingsworth, who was born in the U.S. and starred at VCU, became naturalized to play for Turkey in May. She was first approached by the Turks to play for them in January and it became official two months ago.
"It was very quick. Initially they pursued me and said they were interested," she said. "I know a lot of the players on the U.S. team and recognized it would be an opportunity for me to go to the Olympics. It also gives me a lot of other benefits that I can be a European player. I recognized the talent on this team and figured it was blessing for me to take this step."
The two teams are in the same pool at the Olympics and will play on Aug. 1. The Americans open up their Olympic play on July 28 against Croatia. Other teams in their group are China, Angola and the Czech Republic.