LONDON – Geno Auriemma attributes the U.S. women’s basketball team’s success over the past four Olympics to one simple thing: depth.
While some teams may be able to hang with the American starters, the U.S. is able to bring a fresh wave of All-Stars off the bench to wear their opponents down.
“What we lack in preparation time we make up for in the quality of our depth,” Auriemma said. “We have to use it to the best of our advantage. That second group led by Lindsay (Whalen) and Angel (McCoughtry) was the difference in the game.
“From the minute (McCoughtry) stepped on the floor to when the game ended, she was the dominant player. That’s something that I think we have that very few if any teams in this tournament have, so I’m fortunate to have that option.”
McCoughtry scored 18 points, and Tina Charles added 16 to help the Americans beat the Turkey 89-58 Wednesday night.
Coming off the bench is a new role for McCoughtry, who has started for almost her entire career since high school. It’s a role in which she has thrived.
“Honestly not starting has been the best thing for my career,” she said. “I’ve gained discipline, and I think before I didn’t have the discipline. This took my game to another level.”
Turkey entered the game undefeated and was expected to give the Americans their toughest test in the Olympics so far. The Turks had looked impressive in their first Olympic appearance and said they weren’t intimidated by the top-ranked team in the world despite the U.S. winning its first two games by an average of 38.5 points.
The Turks stayed close for a while. They had an early one-point lead in the first quarter before McCoughtry helped the Americans build a 15-point advantage by the half.
Turkey didn’t waiver, coming within 50-45 in the third quarter before McCoughtry and the reserves put the game away.
Her three-point play started a 13-2 run. On the Americans’ next possession she missed a 3-pointer, but hustled for the offensive rebound and found Maya Moore for an easy lay-in.
Whalen then took over, scoring six of the final eight points during the burst to make it 63-47 after three quarters much to the delight of LeBron James, who was in attendance along with some of the other men’s Olympic team. The Turks could get no closer in the fourth quarter.
“Our second unit came in and did a good job of pushing tempo and forcing turnovers,” center Candace Parker said. “Angel had a heck of a game. Coach said in the locker room it was the second unit that made the difference.”
Former VCU star Quanitra Hollingsworth led Turkey (2-1) with 11 points. She was born in America but became a naturalized to play for Turkey in May.
“It was a great experience,” Hollingsworth said of the game. “We could have done better, but when you give away so many second-chance opportunities you can’t really get back into the game. They stepped it up a level.”
The Americans played without center Sylvia Fowles for the second consecutive game because she was resting a sore left foot. She also sat out the team’s 52-point win over Angola on Monday night.
The Turks have played well in their first Olympics with wins over Angola and the Czech Republic. They had hung with the Americans for three quarters of an exhibition game in Istanbul last month before the U.S. pulled away to a 19-point victory.
They had a tougher time Wednesday against the U.S., which now has won its last 36 games in the Olympics and is attempting to win a fifth consecutive gold medal.
Next up for the U.S. on Friday is the Czech Republic, which beat Croatia 89-70 for its first win. After playing, practicing or traveling for the last two weeks the Americans will take Thursday off.
The Americans close out pool play Sunday against China, which is also 3-0 after routing Angola 76-52. China already has clinched a spot in the quarterfinal.
Also Wednesday, France edged Canada 64-60 to advance to the next round. Russia remained unbeaten with a 67-61 win over Britain. The Russians also advanced to the quarterfinals. Australia rebounded from its first loss to a non-American team in the Olympics since 1996 with a 67-61 victory over Brazil.