Hammon scores 3 as Latvia beats Russia in tuneup

Updated: August 2, 2008, 7:20 AM ET
Associated Press

HAINING, China -- Becky Hammon began her Russian national career with a loss.

Anete Jekabsone scored 34 points to lead Latvia to a 75-69 victory over Russia on Saturday afternoon in the opening game of the FIBA Diamond Ball tournament, a tuneup for the Olympics.

Hammon scored just three points -- all from the foul line -- and missed all six of her shots from the field.

The 31-year-old point guard, who plays for the WNBA's San Antonio Silver Stars, wasn't in the 29-player pool used to select the U.S. Olympic team. So she chose another option: playing for Russia.

Hammon, a South Dakota native, competes for a Russian club team during the winter and became a naturalized citizen there. Since she hadn't played for the United States in any major FIBA-sanctioned international events, she was allowed to compete for Russia in the Olympics.

Russia's next game is Monday night against the U.S. The Russians beat the Americans in the semifinals of the 2006 World Championships without Hammon.

Hammon didn't start Saturday, entering the game midway through the first quarter. She missed her first three shots before finally scoring on two free throws with 2.3 seconds left in the first half. Russia scored the last six points of the half to close a 13-point deficit to seven.

Russia rallied in the third to close within 51-50. The Russians took a brief lead in the fourth, but Jekabsone's scoring put latvia in front.

The game was tied at 64 with 3:26 left before Latvia closed the game with a 11-5 spurt. Jekabsone scored five points during the run, including a 3-pointer with 50 seconds left that sealed the game.

Ilona Korstin and Maria Stepanova each scored 16 points to lead Russia.

Latvia qualified for the Olympics by finishing in the top four of last June's FIBA tournament. The women's basketball team became the first Latvian team to qualify for a Summer Olympics since the men's team played in the 1936 Berlin Games.

Latvia will close out its Diamond Ball pool play Sunday night against the United States.

The tournament features four of the top teams in the world -- the U.S., Russia, Australia and China. The Chinese team played Mali later Saturday night.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press