USA Plucks Victory From Upset Minded Turkey, 80-61
-- Seimone Augustus Tallies 16 Points To Lead The USA --
Istanbul, Turkey • July 22, 2012
In a game that was much closer than the final score indicated, the 2012 USA Basketball Women’s National Team (5-0) needed nearly all 40 minutes before it was able to put away host Turkey in a 80-61 exhibition win on Sunday evening at Abdi Pekci Arena in Istanbul, Turkey.
The USA’s depth eventually wore down Turkey, which won the silver medal at the 2011 FIBA Europe Championship and earned its first Olympic berth this summer via the 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament. By the fourth quarter the USA found some breathing room after leading by no more than eight points in the first 30 minutes.
In stark contrast to the USA’s blazing 70.8 percent from the field in the first quarter against Croatia yesterday, the USA was an icy 0-for-7 from the field to start the game, just 28.6 percent from the field (6-21 FGs) in the first period and finished shooting 45.8 percent overall (33-72 FGs).
“We had to make plays. We had to get stops, and they are a really, really good team,” said Geno Auriemma, USA and University of Connecticut head coach. “They have a lot of weapons, they have a lot of ways they can beat you and they are really smart. We gave them a lot of life. We missed a lot of opportunities that would have made it much easier for us, but maybe in the long run that’s better too. It’s easy to win when you shoot (70.8) percent like we did last night. It’s another thing when you shoot 35.0 percent in the first half and are able to beat a really good team by 19. So yeah, it showed some of our flaws and our warts, like everybody else has, and we’ve got four more practices to fix it and then we are on the big stage.”
Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx) led the Americans with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field and dished out three assists, Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) added 14 points and Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky) scored 12. Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks) collected a game-high 12 rebounds to go with her eight points, despite being in foul trouble, along with Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun). Both players were whistled for four infractions.
“They’re an aggressive team,” Augustus said of Turkey. “They’re kind of undersized, so they have to be very physical. They came out with a lot of excitement and energy. Their fans were behind them. They feed off of their fans’ energy here.”
Buoyed by its home crowd, Turkey opened on a 6-0 run to start the game, however, the USA countered with a 7-0 spurt to take its first lead, 7-6, when Charles scored an offensive rebound at 5:25. The lead changed hands four more times, as well as three tied scores over the next 4:35, before a made free throw from Fowles at 1:08 ended the first stanza with the USA up by one, 17-16.
A back-door cut from Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx) opened the second quarter for the USA, but Turkey sank a 3-pointer to once again even the score at 19-19 at 8:23. A 3-pointer from Taurasi at 7:45 was followed by six points from Augustus to help the USA build a five point lead, 28-23 at 5:03. The teams traded baskets over the remainder of the first half, and the Americans took that five-point lead, 32-27, into the halftime locker room.
The one-point margin at the first quarter and five-point lead at halftime were by far the USA’s closest of its five exhibition games in 2012.
“It was a great crowd,” Whalen said. “They were going crazy when they were on their runs. They were really on us when we had the ball, they were trying to disrupt things. I think it’s good to play in this atmosphere. It’s fun and you get to really see what their excitement level is. It’s great to see a crowd like that. It definitely gets us ready for London.”
The U.S. team was familiar to the Turkish fans as six players have suited up for Turkish clubs in the past few years, including: Augustus, Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever), Charles, Fowles and Taurasi for Galatasaray; and Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream) and Taurasi for Fenerbache.
Two 3-pointers after halftime helped Turkey narrow the gap, and with a basket at 6:31 in the third, Turkey was within one point, 38-37, but that was as close as they would come. A three-point play from McCoughtry at 4:19 gave the USA a five-point lead, 45-40, which was quickly erased after a three-point play from Turkey’s Quanitra Hollingsworth, an American who played at Virginia Commonwealth University and was naturalized as a Turkish citizen in May, brought her side back within two, 45-43. The USA responded with a 6-0 spurt, however, to help restore a 55-48 lead headed into the final 10 minutes.
The fourth quarter opened with a three-point play from Swin Cash (Chicago Sky), which gave the USA its first double-digit advantage of the game, and from there the USA continued to push as Turkey finally could not keep up. The USA’s largest run of the game was a 12-0 stretch that began with two points from Asjha Jones (Connecticut Sun) at 6:45 and ended with a score from Charles at 4:00, and by that time the USA led 72-55.
Taurasi gave the USA its biggest lead of the game, 21 points at 31.9 seconds, and Turkey made two free throws down the stretch to bring the game to its 80-61 final.
“I think we did some really good things,” Taurasi said. “Obviously, this was a lot tougher team, and that’s what we are going to face in the Olympics, so I think it was a good test for us. Whenever a team comes out and does a good job and plays well and challenges you, it really shows what kind of resolve we have.”
The USA’s first contest of the 2012 London Olympic Games is against Croatia, which the USA beat in exhibition play 109-55 on July 21, at 4:45 p.m. (11:45 a.m. EDT) on July 28, followed by Angola at 10:15 p.m. (5:15 p.m. EDT) on July 30 and a rematch against Turkey at 10:15 p.m. (5:15 p.m. EDT) on Aug. 1. The USA will then face Czech Republic at 10:15 p.m. (5:15 EDT) on Aug. 3 before wrapping up preliminary round play against China 4:45 p.m. (10:45 a.m. EDT) on Aug. 5.
Auriemma is assisted by DePaul University’s Doug Bruno, Jennifer Gillom of the Washington Mystics and Marynell Meadors of the Atlanta Dream.