Czech Republic Up Next for USA Women

LONDON -- The U.S. women’s basketball team has been unstoppable at the London Games — and its starters have hardly broken a sweat.

The Americans’ Olympic rookies have led the way.

The U.S. has rolled through its first three opponents, winning by 36 points a game with major contributions from its bench.

They play the Czech Republic on Friday. The U.S. beat the Czechs in the 2010 world championship title game.

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The second unit, led by Angel McCoughtry, Lindsay Whalen and Maya Moore, has been spectacular. The trio sparked the Americans, helping the U.S. shake off a slow start and eventually wear down Turkey in Wednesday’s 31-point win.

“You put them on the floor and they really disrupt the other team on both ends of the floor,” said U.S. coach Geno Auriemma of his reserves.

Buoyed by the success of the second group, Auriemma hasn’t needed much from veterans Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Tamika Catchings — all of whom have been instrumental in the team’s 36-game Olympic winning streak. The three captains will be called upon more as the Americans advance into the elimination round, which they qualified for with Wednesday’s win.

“Our second group has done a tremendous job so far,” said Taurasi, who is averaging seven points in 22 minutes. “There’s still a lot of games left and we’ll be ready.”

Besides her play on the court, Whalen can offer insight to the coaching staff after spending the past few years playing in the Czech Republic during the WNBA offseason.

“These guys have all played internationally and definitely help in learning about the other team’s personnel,” Auriemma said.

While the Americans have already clinched a spot in the quarterfinals, the Czechs (1-2) still are trying to advance.

They made a surprising run to the silver medal at the worlds, knocking off defending champion Australia in the quarterfinals before losing by 20 to the U.S. in the title game. The Czech Republic only trailed by five at the half, which sent the sellout home crowd — that included President Vaclav Klaus — into a frenzy.

“It was great for our team to see, feel we could play in a close game for some time against the U.S.,” said Czech star Katerina Elhotova. “I’m really hoping that ... we’ll keep pace with them for longer than only one half.”

Without the tremendous home crowd behind them, the Czech Republic hasn’t been able to duplicate that run in the Olympics.

The Czechs won their first game on Wednesday, beating Croatia 89-70.

“They’re another team that struggled in the first two games and that was kind of a surprise,” Auriemma said. “Against Croatia, they looked like the old Czech team. They went from down four to up 15 in no time. Their size and their guard play is pretty impressive. We need to keep getting better. If we keep getting better we’ll be fine.”

Auriemma gave his team Thursday. They’ve played, practiced, or traveled every day since getting together for the first time on July 14.

“It’s nice to just get a day to relax, sleep late,” Candace Parker said. “I’ll be going sightseeing with my family.”

The time off will also give center Sylvia Fowles another chance to rest her sore left foot. Fowles has not played in the past two games.

After facing the U.S., the Czechs will play winless Angola on Sunday. The Americans will close out their pool play on Sunday against China, which also is unbeaten.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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