Diana Taurasi Helps US Women’s Hoops Team Beats Australia 104-89
NEW YORK (AP) — Diana Taurasi and the U.S. women's national basketball team capped off their pre-Olympic tour with a dominant offensive show against Australia.
Taurasi scored 15 of her 20 points during a 5-minute span in the third quarter to help the Americans beat Australia 104-89 on Sunday in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden.
"It kind of just happened," Taurasi said. "On this team you can't force the issue that much we have so many talented players. It metamorphosed into something without even trying. Today it happened to me. Next month we'll take turns filling that role. Today it was just me."
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Elena Delle Donne added 19 points for the Americans in the final tuneup for both teams before they head to Rio for the Olympics that begin next weekend. The Americans won every game on their exhibition tour, starting with a four-point victory over a U.S. select team. They also cruised to wins over Canada and France. The U.S. will make a brief stop in Houston to meet up with the men's team before flying to Rio on Tuesday
This was the first time in a long time that the U.S. played a pre-Olympic tour on home soil.
"It's been awesome," Taurasi said. "To be on this team for this long and it most likely be my last go. The last three games in front of Delaware fans, Connecticut and then the Garden where there's a different feel, different electricity. ... It's given us a lot of confidence going into Rio."
The U.S. and Australia are the top two teams in the world and are expected to face off for the gold medal in Rio at the Olympics. The Americans have won the last five Olympic gold medals while Australia has won either the bronze at every one since 1996.
"Even though we lost we got a lot of confidence out of this game," Australia coach Brendan Joyce said. "We have a bit of a rougher road to a potential rematch with them for a gold medal in Rio."
The Australians got off to a strong start hitting six of their first 10 shots, including three 3-pointers to build a 17-11 advantage early on. But just as they normally do, the depth on the U.S. team wore down the Opals.
Delle Donne rallied the Americans scoring 11 points in the first quarter, hitting all four of her shots.
The U.S. scored the first 13 points of the second quarter, including eight by Angel McCoughtry, to build the advantage to 41-25 that capped off a 30-8 burst.
Australia wouldn't go away. Penny Taylor, who told the AP over the weekend that she was retiring after the WNBA season ends, and Leilani Mitchell got the Opals to 54-48 at the half.
Taurasi took over in the third quarter. She got hot from the outside, hitting three 3-pointers during that 5-minute span to help the U.S. extend its lead to 77-58 and got the crowd of over 13,000 fans on their feet and chanting "U-S-A". Australia, which won its first two games in the exhibition tournament, could never recover.
Liz Cambage led Australia with 22 points despite being saddled by foul trouble. Mitchell finished with 18 points for Australia.
"They are the best team in the world for a reason," said Cambage, who played her first-game ever at MSG. "We have some things we need to work on."
The U.S. honored former Olympians Teresa Edwards, Lisa Leslie, Dawn Staley, Gail Marquis and Juliene Simpson. The national team stayed for the ceremony cheering on the former greats. Marquis and Simpson were on the 1976 team and Edwards, Leslie and Staley helped get this run of five straight gold medals started. After the former greats were introduced to the crowd, the current team ran over and hugged and high-fived them.
The Americans have won 41 consecutive Olympic contests with the last loss coming in the 1992 semifinals. They also have never lost to Australia, going 19-0 in exhibition games, world championship contests and the Olympics.