Angel McCoughtry, Swin Cash lead U.S.
OSTRAVA, Czech Republic -- Despite winning seven NCAA titles at Connecticut, Geno Auriemma admitted he was nervous before coaching his first world championship game.
The U.S. team quickly eased those nerves with a 99-73 win Thursday against Greece in the opening round of the women's basketball worlds.
"This is difficult because first you're not coaching at UConn, where only the people in Connecticut care, now you're coaching a team where everybody in America cares if you win," said Auriemma, whose UConn teams have won a NCAA-record 78 games in two seasons. "I was probably more nervous today than before the national championship game back in April."
Angel McCoughtry and Swin Cash each scored 16 points to lead a balanced U.S. offense that featured five players in double figures.
"I thought it was a good game for us," Cash said. "We have so many people who can score that our depth always helps us. They made us work defensively, which will help us in the rest of the tournament."
The U.S. couldn't contain Evanthia Maltsi, who scored 29 points, including six 3-pointers for Greece. Styliani Kaltsidou added 21 points for the Greeks, who were making their first appearance at the event.
"They had two players tonight we couldn't stop," Auriemma said. "We played really well on the offensive side, but couldn't stop them."
The U.S. entered the tournament in an unfamiliar position of finishing third in 2006. The Americans haven't gone consecutive worlds without winning a gold medal since 1971-75.
McCoughtry, Cash and Sue Bird competed in the WNBA Finals and only arrived Tuesday. That allowed just one day of practice with the entire team.
"It's a lot easier to come here and play with so many talented players," McCoughtry said. "Coach said he could pick the starting five out of a hat and it wouldn't make a difference who is out there."
Connecticut senior Maya Moore became the third collegian to play for the U.S. when she entered midway through the first quarter. She joined Candace Parker (2006) and Chamique Holdsclaw (1998), who competed while in college.
"Maya looked like a college player tonight," Auriemma said. "She got lost a couple times on the floor. She's a smart player, she'll get better tomorrow night."
The U.S. will play Senegal on Friday, while Greece faces France.
Moore made her presence felt immediately on the offensive end, scoring five points during a 17-6 spurt that turned a three-point U.S. lead into a 32-18 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
Bird started the run with a 3-pointer and Cash followed with a three-point play that made it 21-12.
Greece cut the deficit to 15 three times in the second quarter, including to 50-35 on Maltsi's backdoor layup with 4.5 seconds left. Moore responded, beating the halftime buzzer with a jumper just inside the 3-point line that made it a 17-point game. She finished with nine points.
Voepel: U.S. opens with win
Considering the little time the U.S. women have had together to prepare for the FIBA World Championship, they opened with a fairly impressive, 99-73 victory over Greece on Thursday. Story
The Greeks got within 12 on Maltsi's 3-pointer with 6:40 left in the third quarter before back-to-back layups by Charles and Dupree ended any hopes of a comeback.
"We knew coming in that the Americans were a very talented team," Maltsi said. "Just to compete with them in our first world game will help us get better as a team. I'm so proud that we're here."
Dupree scored eight of her 10 points in the fourth quarter as the U.S. watched its lead grow to as many as 28 points.
"They are so big and have so many athletes, we couldn't compete with them for rebounds," Greece coach Kostas Missas said.
Center Sylvia Fowles looked comfortable while playing seven minutes. She is still working her way back after surgery last month on her left knee repaired a torn meniscus. The 6-foot-6 star has only taken part in full practices for two days.
"This was Sylvia's first game since she had the surgery and I thought she looked very good," Auriemma said. "Sylvia changes the game as she's so big, so strong. I hope to player her a bit more tomorrow."
South Korea 61, Brazil 60Kim Ji Yoon's layup with six seconds left lifted South Korea to the upset win. Trailing by one, she stole the inbounds pass and went the length of the court to give South Korea the lead. Brazil couldn't get a shot off in the final six seconds, when Erika De Souza turned the ball over as time expired.
Kim Kwe Ryong scored 14 points and Jung Sunmin and Kim Danbi added 13 points each for Korea.
Brazil led 60-57 on De Souza's jumper with 1:25 left. Kwe Ryong hit a layup with 68 seconds left before the team's traded missed shots to set up the frantic finish. De Souza scored 15 points to lead Brazil and Alessandra Santos added 13.
Australia 72, Canada 47Lauren Jackson and Kristi Harrower each scored 13 points as Australia made its first eight shots.
The Canadians missed their first nine tries before Teresa Gabriele hit a driving layup at the end of the first quarter.
She followed it up with a 3-pointer to start the second quarter and got Canada within five. Jackson hit three free throws to restore the eight-point lead.
Belarus 68, China 57Yelena Leuchanka scored 20 points and Belarus held China to just one field goal for 8½ minutes in the fourth quarter. Leuchanka, who plays for the Atlanta Dream in the WNBA, added 12 rebounds for Belarus.
China cut its deficit to 52-51 on Chen Nan's 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter, but Belarus turned up its defense, going on a 14-2 run. Chen, Liu Dan and Miao Lijie each scored 13 points to lead China.
France 83, Senegal 45Clemence Beikes and Celine Dumerc each had 12 points for France, which had an 18-13 advantage with 2:57 left in the first quarter before holding Senegal scoreless during the next 9 minutes to take a 20-point lead.
Aya Traore scored 10 to lead Senegal, which qualified for the worlds by winning the African championship.
Spain 80, Mali 36
Amaya Valdemoro scored 18 points and Sancho Lyttle added 13 for Spain. Mali was able to stay close for the first quarter behind a strong defensive effort to trail 15-7. Spain then took control of the game, outscoring Mali 50-16 in the next two periods. The Spaniards shot 52 percent from the field, including 11 of 19 on 3-pointers.
Djenebou Sissoko had 12 points to lead Mali, which qualified for the tournament by coming in second at the African championship.
Russia 86, Japan 63
Irina Osipova scored 18 points and Maria Stepanova added 17 to lead Russia, which held only a five-point halftime lead before outscoring Japan 27-15 in the third quarter. Stepanova had seven of her points in the period.
Yuko Oga led Japan with 23 points, while Ayumi Suzuki added 13.
Czech Republic 67, Argentina 53
Eva Viteckova scored 16 points and Jana Vesela added 13 points and 14 rebounds for the Czech Republic.
Vesela, who played for the WNBA champion Seattle Storm this past season, scored 11 of her 13 points in the second half. The host nation used a big third quarter to turn a five-point advantage into a 17-point lead.
Paula Reggiardo scored nine points to lead Argentina.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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