LONDON (Reuters) - There will be no neighborly niceties when the U.S. women’s basketball team go up against Canada to open the quarter-finals of the London Olympic tournament on Tuesday.
“Canada is a hell of a team,” American Diana Taurasi said of their North American neighbors’ hard-nosed style. “They’re tough, they’re rugged, they beat you up.”
Canada will need to bring more than a hard-nosed attitude to their quarter-final against the U.S., who have compiled a 5-0 record during the preliminary round and extended their 20-year Olympic winning streak to 38 games.
Eyeing a fifth consecutive Olympic gold, the powerful Americans have averaged 92 points per game, 21 points better than the next best team, France, and held opponents to a tournament low 60 points per game.
“We wear opponents down,” said U.S. coach Geno Auriemma, whose bench players would likely be in the starting side of other teams.
Despite their obvious firepower, the U.S. do not have a player among the top 10 in scoring as points and playing time is shared.
Bench player Angel McCoughtry leads the team with a 13.0 points per game followed by Tina Charles (12.8), Taurasi (12.2) and back-up guard Lindsay Wahlen (10.0).
Asked if a victory by the Group A winners was a foregone conclusion, Canada coach Allison McNeill said: ”Yeah, it probably is a foregone conclusion, but we’re going to go play. We’re going to show up and play hard.
“Can we play with them? We’re about to find out.”
Australia (4-1), who have lost the last three Olympic gold medal games to the U.S., are playing China (3-2), who are led by tournament scoring leader Chen Nan (17.6 points), with the winner advancing to the semi-finals against the Americans.
“We know China pretty well, we’ve faced them a lot over the years,” said Australian coach Carrie Graf.
“We can’t have a good quarter, a sub-par quarter, another mediocre quarter. We’ve got to play every single play for 40 minutes.”
The other bracket has Group B winners France (5-0), led by point guard Celine Dumerc meeting the Czech Republic (2-3), who they beat in the bronze medal game at last year’s EuroBasket.
Dumerc, who sank a game-tying three-pointer in the dying seconds of regulation and another in the last second of overtime to beat Britain, said the measure of France’s performance at the Games was at stake.
“If we lose the quarter-final all the success that we made in the group will be destroyed,” the French captain said. “We don’t want to stop in the quarter-final.”
The other half of France’s bracket offers another rematch from the 2011 EuroBasket tournament in Poland as Russia (3-2) meet Turkey (4-1), who have been one of the tournament’s biggest surprises in making their Olympic debut.
Russia, Olympic bronze medalists in 2008 and 2004, defeated Turkey in the final to win last year’s European championship.
Editing by Greg Stutchbury