U.S. defeats Britain in exhibition
MANCHESTER, England -- With the first team struggling, Geno Auriemma went to his reserves to turn the game around.
Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen sparked a 21-0 run to help the U.S. women's basketball team beat Britain 88-63 on Wednesday night in an exhibition game. Moore scored 18 points and Whalen added 13.
The Americans trailed by 11 points in the first 7 minutes before the second unit took over.
"The good thing about them is they are all young and bring tremendous energy to the court," Auriemma said. "This is their first time through and they just play with a lot of joy and fun and tremendous sense of urgency. They want to play and want to prove they belong on this team."
Moore and Whalen, along with Angel McCoughtry, all will be playing in their first Olympic Games, which begin on July 28. They just want to continue the success the Americans have had.
"They are like the Energizer bunnies," captain Tamika Catchings said.
The U.S. was still without Sue Bird, who left the team after the death of her stepfather, Dennis, this past weekend. She practiced on Saturday and Sunday but missed the exhibition game on Monday against Brazil to be with her family. Auriemma said he thinks Bird will rejoin the team this weekend when they travel to Istanbul for the next leg of their pre-Olympic training tour.
"It's definitely not an excuse, but having Sue makes a difference," Catchings said. "Diana Taurasi did a good job playing the point, but she's more comfortable at the 2 or 3."
The Americans will play Turkey and Croatia in exhibition games before heading to London on July 25. The U.S. has won four straight Olympic gold medals.
While the U.S. has dominated Olympics play, Britain is a newcomer playing in its first Games. The coach is no stranger to the Games, as Tom Maher has led four different countries to the Olympics. He guided Australia to the bronze medal in 1996 and silver in 2000. He then took New Zealand (2004) and China (2008) to the Games.
Maher is proud of the great strides Britain's made over the past four years.
"I'm delighted with our progress," Maher said. "Four years ago we were rubbish. Now we can play and look respectable. We've learned a lot from when we played Australia, France. It's fantastic. You can see the learning. They've come so far and I couldn't be prouder."
Jo Leedham scored 21 points to lead Britain while Stef Collins added 14.
Britain got off to a great start in front of its home crowd, outhustling the Americans. The British opened up a 21-10 advantage behind Leedham with 3 minutes left in the first half. That prompted Auriemma to go with a more defensive lineup. The group of Moore, Whalen, McCoughtry, Swin Cash and Tina Charles quickly responded by scoring the final 15 points of the quarter to make it 26-21.
The Americans scored the first six points of the second quarter to make it 21 straight before Leedham hit a tough runner to end the spurt. That run got the U.S. men's team excited. The men, who play Britain in an exhibition game Thursday night, were sitting courtside for the game and left with about 4 minutes left and the women up 25 points.
The U.S. only led 47-32 at the half behind Moore, who had 14 at the break. Britain wouldn't go away, cutting its deficit to seven midway through the third quarter. That's when Auriemma put the sparkplugs back in and they promptly led the U.S. to a 19-4 run to close the period. Whalen started the burst with a reverse layup, scoring eight of her points during the spurt which ended any hopes of a British upset.
"When they pressed us we panicked a bit," said Leedham, who led Franklin Pierce to the Division II national championship. "We were really rushed and didn't get into our stuff. They are the best running team in this league."
The British have a tough draw playing in a group with Australia, Russia, France, Canada and Brazil.
The Americans open up their Olympic play on July 28 against Croatia. Other teams in the Americans' group are China, Angola, the Czech Republic and Turkey.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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