Team USA beats Australia
OSTRAVA, Czech Republic -- For one of the rare times, the United States faced Australia in the world championship without much at stake.
It didn't make a difference for the two women's basketball powerhouses.
Diana Taurasi scored 24 points to help the United States beat Australia 83-75 on Wednesday night and earn the top seed in the quarterfinals of this event.
"She's an unbelievable competitor," U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said. "Australia's the defending world champions and I knew that would bring out the best in Diana and it didn't surprise me one bit."
Sylvia Fowles added 15 points and Tina Charles had 14 points for the U.S. (6-0), which will face South Korea on Friday in Karlovy Vary in the quarters. Australia (5-1) will take on the Czech Republic. The Americans remained undefeated against the Aussies in the worlds, improving to 9-0 all-time.
Liz Cambage, the 6-foot-8 phenom, scored 18 points to lead Australia while Lauren Jackson added 13.
The two teams could meet again in a potential gold medal game.
"It's not in my nature or USA Basketball's nature except to try and win this game and do what we had to do to win this game," Auriemma said. "There's no guarantee we'll play them again. We wanted to play tonight's game to win."
It was strange seeing them meet so early in the tournament. This was the first time since 1994 that they played in the worlds before the medal round.
"Any game with them is a big game," Australia coach Carrie Graf said. "The emotional effect to get up to play great opponents. It's great practice for quarterfinal play, semifinal play, gold medal play."
Even with a lot less at stake, the teams went right at each other, trading points early on. It was tough for anyone to get into an offensive flow though as the officials called 17 fouls in the first eight minutes.
Leading 21-18 with 1:56 left in the first period, the Americans took over with Fowles and Taurasi keying an 18-0 run.
The 6-6 center started the spurt with a tough lay-in. Taurasi followed with an acrobatic jumper. On the next play, Sue Bird tracked down the ball at midcourt and passed ahead to Fowles for another easy lay-in as the Americans were off and running to the delight of the crowd of 6,340.
The U.S. led by 11 after one period and continued the onslaught to start the second quarter, scoring the first nine points. Taurasi hit two 3-pointers during the burst, including one with eight minutes left that capped the run and made it 39-18.
"We were embarrassing on the glass," Graf said. "It was like little girls playing ladies. That sets a tone for the game."
Jackson finally ended Australia's drought with a deep 3-pointer, but the U.S. maintained an 18-point halftime lead.
Unlike the 2008 Olympic gold medal game when the Americans jumped out to a 17-point halftime lead and then coasted to a 92-65 win, Australia battled back in the second half.
"It was just a tale of two halves for us, Taurasi said. "We played pretty well in the first half, the second half they played pretty well. We came up with more plays."
Trailing 67-48, the Aussies scored eight of the next nine points to make it a 12-point game as Cambage started to assert herself on both ends, blocking shots and showing an array of post moves.
The 19-year-old, who leads the team in scoring for the tournament, has shown vast improvement since the first time the U.S. saw her in a scrimmage back in July.
"First time we played against them this year I thought she was really good," Auriemma said. "She's young and raw and it would appear she gets better every practice. She's better than the game before. It's so difficult to guard her one-on-one. She's going to be unbelievable difficult to play against."
Her three-point play with 2:26 left cut Australia's deficit to 79-70, but it wasn't enough.
"I think we could learn a lot from those 40 minutes tonight," Auriemma said.
Belarus 74, Greece 70
Yelena Leuchanka scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead Belarus to a 74-70 win over Greece and into the quarterfinals for the first time ever.
Leuchanka also hit four of the Belarusians' 11 3-pointers. Anastasiya Verameyenka added 13 points and 10 rebounds for Belarus (3-3).
Evanthia Maltsi hit a 3-pointer to start the second half and give Greece its first lead since early in the game. Belarus scored the next five points, but the Greeks wouldn't go away.
Belarus kept getting its lead to seven points before Greece (2-4) would cut it back down behind Styliani Kaltsidou and Maltsi. Kaltsidou led Greece with 29 points and Maltsi added 17.
The Belarusians were up 70-63 with 2:57 left before Greece climbed within two on a tough floater in the lane by Kaltsidou with 25 seconds left.
After allowing Belarus to take a lot of time off the clock, Greece finally fouled Natallia Marchanka with 10 seconds left. She calmly hit both free throws to seal the victory and start of a jubilant celebration in the stands by the many Belarus fans who made the trek.
Trailing 40-30 with 2:06 left in the half, Greece rallied behind Maltsi. She ignited a 10-0 run with a jumper from the top of the key. She then closed the half with a 3-pointer that made it 40-38 with 29 seconds left in the half.
Leuchanka helped Belarus build its lead with 13 points and seven rebounds in the first half.
France 49, Canada 47
Celine Dumerc's layup at the buzzer lifted France over Canada. Dumerc caught the ball with 4.6 seconds left at the top of the key and drove to the left, letting the ball go just as the game ended.
Endene Miyem and Anael Lardy scored nine points to lead France, which will play Spain in the quarterfinals.
Canada rallied back after going without a field goal for 17½ minutes. Trailing 45-42, Kim Smith hit a jumper from the corner and followed it up with a 3-pointer with 37 seconds left to give Canada a two-point edge.
Miyem answered with a basket to tie the score at 47.
Canada had a chance to win, but Tamara Tatham missed two free-throw attempts with 19 seconds left. The Canadians got the rebound but turned the ball over with 4.6 left.
Smith and Notre Dame freshman Natalie Achonwa each had 12 points for Canada (1-5), which got off to a great start taking a 23-12 lead with 6:37 left in the first half. That would be the last basket Canada would score for more than 17 minutes.
Alisha Tatham's basket a minute into the fourth quarter finally ended the long drought and made it 33-30. Canada missed 10 shots and had nine turnovers during that stretch.
Russia 76, Spain 67
Becky Hammon scored 27 points and Russia used a late 16-0 run to beat Spain and earn the second seed in the quarterfinals.
Trailing 60-54 with 8:49 left, Russia went on 16-0 run to take over. Hammon had eight points during the spurt while Irina Osipova added six. She finished with 14 points.
Sancho Lyttle scored 16 points to lead Spain.
The Russians (6-0) will face Belarus in the quarterfinals.
Czech Republic 84, Brazil 70
Eva Viteckova scored 24 points and Hana Horakova added 17 to help the Czech Republic top Brazil.
Ivana Vecerova had 16 and Petra Kulichova 12 as the host nation advanced to the quarterfinals as the third seed.
Trailing 40-36 early in the third quarter, the Czech Republic went on an 18-1 run to open up a 54-41 lead. Horakova had the final four points of the spurt. Brazil closed to 60-55 on Iziane Castro Marques' 3-pointer with 16 seconds left in the quarter.
The Czechs (4-2) led 60-56 early in the fourth before going on a 12-3 spurt to put the game away and end Brazil's hope of advancing.
Castro Marquez scored 27 points to lead Brazil while Erika de Souza added 16.
South Korea 65, Japan 64
Sunmin Jung scored 21 points and Ji Yoon Kim added 14 to help South Korea top Japan and advance to the quarterfinals.
Trailing 60-50 with 5:35 left in the fourth quarter, Japan rallied scoring the next nine points. Yuko Oga had four points during the spurt and Nagi capped it with a jumper that made it 60-59 with 3:04 left.
The teams traded baskets before J. Kim got fouled with 20 seconds left. She hit the first free throw and missed the second. Korea (3-3) got the offensive rebound and Beon hit both free throws to seal the win.
Yoshida hit a 3-pointer with two seconds left for the final margin.
Yuko Oga scored 17 points and Yoko Nagi added 15 for Japan (2-4).
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.