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Oct. 2, 2014

Istanbul, Turkey – After three decisive preliminary-round wins, the 2014 USA Basketball Women’s World Championship is on to the must-win medal round at the 2014 FIBA World Championship.

Interestingly, the USA, the No. 1 seed out of Group D, will meet at 9:15 p.m. (2:15 p.m. EDT, NBA TV and ESPN3/WatchESPN) on Oct. 3 the only team to which it has lost (76-72) thus far in 2014 – albeit in exhibition play – France (3-1), the No. 2 seed out of Group B and the winner of yesterday’s quarterfinal play-in game against Brazil.

The 76-72 exhibition loss came back on Sept. 21, when the U.S. roster included 16 finalists for the team, and Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury) had yet to arrive.

Since then, the USA not only added Griner and finalized its 12-member roster, it has recorded three wins at the FIBA World Championship by an average of 42.0 points per game.

“Yeah, just one player makes a difference – Brittney Griner, her length, just her athleticism, big difference,” said Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), who will be playing in the gym where she plays during the WNBA offseason with Fenerbahce. “Not even that, even without her, we are a different team. We didn’t play like we know how to play. We were sluggish, lazy. We’ll be ready tomorrow.”

The FIBA World Championship from 1998 through 2010 included a second-round that seeded teams for the quarterfinals, meaning teams had six games of preparation before entering single-elimination play. Not so in 2014. This year the No. 1 seeds from the four preliminary round groups automatically advanced to the quarterfinals, while the No. 2 and No. 3 teams had to compete in play-in games, with the winners advancing to the quarterfinals. That means the USA, should it win out as it hopes to, will have just six games overall, and only three games played before entering single elimination.

“I like the old format where we had six games before the medal round,” said USA head coach Geno Auriemma. “It gave us more of an opportunity to be together and play games. This new format I don’t think helps us as much as the other format, but it is what it is. We have to get good real quick, and I think we’re going to be okay.

“We have a really good team,” Auriemma added. “We have a really good group of kids. They communicate well with each other, they play hard, they’re very respectful of each other’s abilities. We don’t have anybody out there trying to prove that they’re better than anybody else. It’s been a great group to coach so far, and I’m looking forward to a great weekend.”

The winner of the USA vs. France quarterfinal will face the winner of the Australia vs. Canada quarterfinal in Saturday’s semis. In the other quarterfinal games on Friday, Spain takes on China and Turkey will face Serbia.