China runs into great wall of Americans in 100-62 loss

U.S. women improve to 5-0

Taurasi steps up after Smith's knee injury

Women's Basketball

Athens Olympics

August 23, 2004|By Bill Dwyre | Bill Dwyre,LOS ANGELES TIMES

ATHENS - They needed softball's mercy rule at the Olympic basketball venue last night. The veteran U.S. women's team, undefeated in five games and favored for the gold medal, routed China, 100-62.

It was a game of loose play and easy baskets by the U.S. squad. The Americans led at the half 52-32, and the only negative, in addition to a steady flow of turnovers in a game that never found any rhythm, was an injury to reserve Katie Smith, who sprained her knee early and sat out the rest of the way.

Smith, a guard on the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA, will have a magnetic resonance imaging exam today, and her availability for the rest of this tournament will be determined then.

Diana Taurasi, who led Connecticut to its third straight NCAA title in April, replaced Smith and had her best game by far in Athens. She drove to the basket, pulled up for jumpers and made two three-pointers for 19 points, almost matching the 22 points she had scored in the first four games.

"Sometimes you just have to wait for the game to come to you, get a little more aggressive," Taurasi said.

The United States will be top-seeded from Group B when the playoffs begin Wednesday with quarterfinals. Australia, also unbeaten, will get the top spot from Group A.

The United States will open against Greece in the playoffs, presenting an interesting matchup and reunion. Dawn Staley, veteran point guard, coaches at Temple, as well as playing with the Charlotte Sting of the WNBA. One of her players at Temple was recently graduated Athena Christoforaki, who will play for Greece.

"It'll be fun," Staley said. "One thing, she is a magnet for the ball. I'll have to give my teammates a scouting report."

In a game that included 27 turnovers by China and 19 by the United States - as well as 22 steals for the Americans - Lisa Leslie added 17 points, Yolanda Griffith had 15 and Sheryl Swoopes 13.

With a huge height and speed advantage, the U.S. team shot 56 percent and had 22 assists.

Ruth Riley, who normally plays only in short spurts as the backup for Leslie, played 13 minutes, scored nine points and said afterward that she is eager for the quarterfinals to begin.

"Playing Greece is great," she said. "They are proud people, they will come out to back their team and the game will have a great atmosphere."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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