U.S. Women Head to Istanbul

MANCHESTER, England -- Diana Taurasi and her U.S. women’s basketball teammates are used to crazy travel schedules playing in the WNBA and overseas.

So their pre-Olympic training trip that has the Americans traveling a quarter of the way around the world is nothing new to the players.

By the time they reach London on July 25, the team will have gone nearly 6,750 miles, hitting three countries in just 10 days.

"We just got to grind it out," Taurasi said. "These first couple of days are kind of hectic with the traveling part of it. We just have to come in with a lot of energy and we’ll be good to go."

The U.S. didn’t travel as much before the Beijing Games, training in San Francisco for a few days before playing a warm-up tournament in southern China.

This time around the Americans started with three days in Washington before taking the 3,500-mile journey to Manchester.

It looked as though the travel may have caught up with them early on against Britain on Wednesday night. The starting group looked sluggish in the opening few minutes as the British built an early 11-point lead. The Americans gave up easy baskets as the defense was out of synch. Then order was restored with a 21-0 run that put the U.S. in the lead for good.

Coach Geno Auriemma wasn’t at all surprised at the defensive lapses considering the team has only had a few practices since getting together on July 14 in Washington.

“Yesterday’s game was a perfect example of what happens when you don’t have a lot of time to practice,” he said. “I think defensively you get exposed a little bit. Every little turn of the head, every little mistake that you make the other team gets a layup. Offensively it doesn’t hurt us as much because they can rely on their individual talents, but defensively, where you really have to have a coordinated effort, I think the amount of travel, the lack of practice time and all that, it does catch up to you.”

From Manchester the team will travel the roughly 1,675 miles Friday to Istanbul to play exhibition games against Turkey and Croatia over the weekend. Then they will have a few days to just practice before heading 1,550 miles to London. The Americans open the Olympics against Croatia on July 28.

“I don’t think there is any issue that they will take care of themselves,” Auriemma said of his players. “They are used to traveling all over the world. They are used to flying from game to game that’s not an issue. They are all well-versed in that.”

Unlike their NBA counterparts, WNBA teams don’t charter planes, taking commercial flights that make traveling more stressful and complex. Also most of the women’s Olympic team plays overseas in the winter where they can travel from country to country.

“Traveling is nothing new for us,” Tamika Catchings said. “It’s all about taking care of yourself.”

While the U.S. is on its pre-Olympic tour, most of the other teams in the games are already in London. It helps that they’ve been able to spend months training together ahead of the Olympics as opposed to the Americans who have been together for a week. The U.S. will only have played five exhibition games by the time of the first game.

“I was talking to China’s coach and he said they will have 30 games by the Olympics, we would have 14 total if we get to the gold medal game,” Auriemma said.

Anything less than 14 would be a monumental upset for the Americans, who have won 33 straight games in the Olympics and four consecutive gold medals.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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