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Basketball

Defense for US too much

By Doug Feinberg
Associated Press / August 8, 2012
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LONDON — The defense was stifling, even suffocating at times.

The United States women put on a clinic Tuesday, forcing the Canadians to take bad shots or not allowing them to shoot at all. The Americans, who cruised into the semifinals of the Olympic basketball tournament with a 91-48 rout, harassed Canada into three shotclock violations in the first seven minutes.

‘‘It’s one thing to miss a shot, but to not be able to get a shot off says a lot about your defense,’’ US coach Geno Auriemma said.

While the four-time defending gold medalists seemingly couldn’t miss in their last game — a 114-66 rout of China — they were sloppy early on against Canada. So they turned to their defense.

‘‘That’s probably a better feeling than making a three, when as a unit you found a way to stop them as a unit,’’ said Diana Taurasi, who led the US with 15 points. ‘‘That’s really hard to do because to get a shot off isn’t the hardest thing, it might not be a quality one, but you can get a shot off.’’

The Americans forced 26 turnovers and were off and running.

‘‘We really were in synch defensively,’’ Candace Parker said. ‘‘Everyone knows that this team can score a lot of points, but we were locked in defensively and that will be huge going forward.’’

The US held Canada to the fewest points it has given up in an Olympic quarterfinals since beating Slovakia, 58-43, in 2000.

‘‘We get steals. We get deflections. We get rebounds, kick the ball out and here we go. We’re rolling,’’ said US forward Tamika Catchings, who had four steals. Next up for the US in the semifinals on Thursday is Australia, which the US has beaten in the last three gold-medal games. Russia will face France in the other semifinal.

The Americans haven’t lost to Canada since playing in the world championship in 1975. The victory was their 39th straight in Olympic play and came 20 years to the day after the win that started the streak — an 88-74 victory over Cuba for the bronze medal in the 1992 Barcelona Games. Canada, which was the final team to qualify for the London Games, made its first appearance in the Olympic quarterfinals. The Canadians looked timid against the Americans’ pressure defense at the start.

Canada was able to close within 11 points in the second quarter, but the US put the game away, outscoring its northern neighbors by 8 the rest of the half to lead, 42-21, at the break.

By the time Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant showed up in the third quarter after they had finished practice, the US women had doubled Canada’s score — 57-28.

Kim Smith scored 13 points to lead Canada.

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