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Aug. 19, 2008

Sylvia Fowles and the U.S. women’s basketball team were too big for South Korea to handle.

Fowles scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the U.S. to a 104-60 rout of South Korea on Tuesday night and advance to the semifinals of women’s basketball. It’s the sixth straight Olympics that the Americans have advanced to the medal round. The only time they didn’t qualify for the semis in the history of women’s basketball was in 1980 and that’s because the U.S. boycotted the Moscow Games.

The Americans will face either Russia or Spain in the semifinals Thursday night. China plays Australia in the other semifinal.

The U.S. has now won 31 straight games since losing to the Unified team in the semifinals of the 1992 Olympics. The Americans were 5-0 in their pool, winning by an average of 43 points. The only trouble they had during group play was in the first 3 minutes against the Czech Republic when they trailed 13-2 before going on to win by 40 points and when they led Spain by five at the half Friday before coasting to a 38-point victory.

On Tuesday, South Korea held tough for the first quarter behind hot shooting. They were 9-for-16 (59 percent) from the field in the period and only were down 25-21 at the end of the period.

The 6-foot-5 Fowles and the U.S. then took over dominating the paint. She was a force on both ends of the floor, giving the Americans second and third attempts with offensive rebounds. On the defensive end she was altering or blocking shots.

The Americans went on a 18-4 run to start the period as Fowles had four points, five rebounds and a block during the spurt. The U.S. outscored South Korea 26-9 in the period and led by 21 at the half.

Any thoughts of a South Korean comeback were quickly dashed when the Americans opened the third quarter with a 15-4 run. The lead ballooned to 41 behind Fowles, who scored nine of her points in the period.

She finished the game 12-for-17 from the field and had eight offensive rebounds. The U.S. outrebounded South Korea 50-24.

Diana Taurasi added 12 points and Cappie Pondexter and Kara Lawson each had 11.

Kim Kwer-yong scored 14 points and Beon Yung-ha and Jung Sun-min each had 13 points to lead South Korea, which advanced to the quarterfinals by beating Latvia to earn the fourth seed in Group A.