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U.S. Opens With Easy Win Over New Zealand

Sunday, August 15, 2004; Page E17

The U.S. women's basketball team got just what it wanted from New Zealand: a nice, easy tuneup. With five players scoring in double figures, the Americans turned it on after a slow start and rolled past New Zealand, 99-47.

New Zealand was well prepared but still no match for the Americans, who had 18 steals and six blocks.


Diana Taurasi celebrates with Shannon Johnson, left, and Sue Bird, right. (Lucy Nicholson -- Reuters)

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Swin Cash, playing her first game in the Olympics, led with 19 points. Sheryl Swoopes scored 14, Lisa Leslie 13, Diana Taurasi 12 and Tina Thompson 11.

And the U.S. team did it without guard Katie Smith, the outside shooting specialist who is sidelined by a bruised right knee. She hasn't practiced since the WNBA season ended July 31 and it's uncertain when she'll play.

The United States had less than two weeks to get ready and the lack of time together was apparent when New Zealand zipped to a 7-0 lead in the first 93 seconds.

But the U.S. defense never relented after that and the Americans broke it open offensively after Coach Van Chancellor replaced his starting five with a new unit at the 4-minute 49-second mark in the first quarter.

Former Connecticut stars Taurasi, Cash and Sue Bird joined Yolanda Griffith and Shannon Johnson on a 20-3 run, leading to a 28-13 advantage at the quarter break.

It was 63-24 at halftime, thanks to a 10-0 U.S. run at the end of the period, and the lead grew to 46 just after three minutes into the second half. If it wasn't over before, it was then.


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