Russia into women's hoops semis

Updated: August 7, 2012, 7:56 PM ET
Associated Press

LONDON -- Becky Hammon came through late for Russia once again.

The San Antonio Silver Stars guard scored 19 points, including the go-ahead basket with 13 seconds left, to lead Russia to a thrilling 66-63 victory over Turkey and into the semifinals of the Olympic women's basketball tournament.

"It was win or go home and we made some plays down the stretch," Hammon said. "That's the most important thing, we hung in there and stuck it out."

Hammon, 35, is playing in her second Olympics for Russia. She became a Russian naturalized citizen before the Beijing Games. Because she hadn't played for the United States in any major FIBA-sanctioned international events, she is allowed to compete for Russia in the Olympics.

The 5-foot-6 South Dakota native helped Russia win the bronze medal at the Beijing Games. This is the third straight Olympics that Russia has reached the semifinals. The Russians also had to settle for the bronze in Athens -- falling to the U.S. in 2004 and 2008.

After finishing third in their pool at the London Games, the Russians avoided a potential matchup with the Americans until the gold medal game -- if both teams advance.

"It means a lot to us, it was our goal not to match up with the U.S. team in the quarters or semifinals," said Russian forward Anna Petrakova, who had 10 points and seven rebounds. "We've done our best in the group to make sure we don't match up with them early it makes it easier."

Russia will face France in the semifinals on Thursday. The U.S. plays Australia in the other semi. Russia hasn't won a gold medal since 1992 when the country was known as the Unified Team.

The loss ended Turkey's impressive run in its first Olympics.

"Five years ago our goal was to make Turkish people to be proud of us," Turkey coach Ceyhun Yidizoglu said through a translator. "Partially we made this. I really hope in the future we'll do great things in the Olympics."

Hammon opened quarterfinal play in the same fashion she started the Olympics.

In her first game at the London Games, she scored eight straight points down the stretch to help Russia rally from double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Canada 58-53.

With the game tied at 62 on Tuesday, Hammon got the ball and drove down the lane, scoring with 13 seconds left and drawing the foul.

She missed the free throw and Quanitra Hollingsworth got the rebound. The U.S. born Hollingsworth, who became a naturalized Turkish citizen in May, was fouled and made one of two free throws to make it a 1-point game.

The Russians couldn't put the game away, hitting only two of its four free throws in the final 12 seconds giving Turkey one last chance, but Birsel Vardarli's 3-pointer from the wing bounced off the rim.

"We got to shoot a little better than 50 percent from the free throw line in the last minute," Hammon said.

The Turks have been improving over the last few years. They beat France in the 2011 Eurobasket tournament, which pits the top teams in Europe, before falling to Russia by 17 in the championship game.

Yidizoglu felt Turkey, which will host the women's basketball world championship in 2014, had a better shot at beating Russia at the London Games with Russian center Maria Stepanova out.

The 6-foot-8 Stepanova, who played in the previous four Olympics, tore her anterior cruciate ligament in late March and wasn't on the Russian roster.

But Hammon, who didn't play for Russia in the 2011 tournament, picked up the scoring.


Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press