What to do after beating a team by over 50 points? If you're the U.S. Women's National Team, fresh off a lopsided 90-38 victory over Angola in the Preliminary Round of the 2012 London Olympic Games, you put that game behind you and focus on the tough, experienced Turkey squad waiting to pull off the upset at 5:15pm ET on Wednesday, August 1.
"Turkey is very good and they proved it at the European Championships," said USA Head Coach Geno Auriemma after watching Candace Parker score 14 points and pull down 12 boards in the win over Angola. "I saw them play a lot. And then when we went down there to play … yeah, they cause a lot of problems for you. They are big and they are smart and physical. They are really, really well coached."
Turkey did indeed prove something at the 2011 European Championships in Poland last summer, advancing all the way to the final before succumbing to the eventual champions from Russia. The core of that silver medal-winning squad is now 2-0 in 2012 Olympic Preliminary Round play, having defeated Angola 72-50 on July 28 and the Czech Republic 61-57 on July 30. The Turkish squad will have a good scouting report on Team USA for Wednesday as well, after hosting the Americans in Istanbul on July 22, the last USA tune-up game prior to the Olympic Games. USA topped Turkey 80-61 in that match, with Diana Taurasi and Seimone Augustus scoring 16 points each to lead the Americans.
"We [also] played Croatia in Istanbul, and beat them by 50, and it was a great game when we played them here [in London]," said Auriemma. "So I’m sure that the same [Turkey] team we played in Istanbul probably won’t be the same team we play on Wednesday. But they are not going to be playing against the same team either, so it all evens out."
If familiarity breeds contempt, Team USA and Turkey won't be lovey-dovey on Wednesday. In addition to just having played each other on July 22, six of the 12 players on the USA roster -- Taurasi, Augustus, Tamika Catchings, Tina Charles, Sylvia Fowles and Angel McCoughtry -- have played in Turkey during the WNBA offseason.
"Turkey’s a good team," said Taurasi, who has played for the two big Turkish club rivals, Fenerbahce and Galatasary and knows several of the current Turkey National Team players well. "They’ve played together for a long time. They’re well-coached. They’ve had a great tournament so far and we just hope we play really well."
Defensive intensity has been a factor for Turkey thus far in London, as three of the top six steals leaders in the women's competition -- Nevriye Yilmaz, Birsel Vardarli and Bahar Caglar -- all play for the Turkish side. Team USA is no stranger to ball-hawking either, however, as McCoughtry ranks fourth in the tournamant in steals, despite averaging just under 15 minutes of play per game.
"I think we need to move on to the next game. We have a tough one Wednesday," said McCoughtry, who led her Atlanta Dream squad to two straight WNBA Finals appearances and suits up for Fenerbahce in the WNBA off-season. "We have to come out of the gate ready to play. I think we'll make some adjustments and if we correct our mistakes it will go our way."
Point guard Sue Bird agreed with McCoughtry's assessment that the USA needs to keep improving in order to reach their ultimate goal.
"I think we can get a lot better, I really, really do," said Bird, who noted the USA squad hadn't had much preparation time together as a unit prior to the London Games. "It’s good to have a test early against Croatia, maybe a game like this [Angola] and now we’re going to have another test with Turkey. That’s all going to help prepare us for hopefully what will end up being the gold medal game."