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Oct. 3, 2014

Story and photo courtesy USA Basketball

Istanbul, Turkey – Shooting a USA World Championship record 70.7 percent from the field (41-58 FGs), the 2014 USA Basketball Women’s World Championship Team (4-0) took control of the game early in its 94-72 win over France (3-2) and never looked back to advance to the semifinals of the 2014 FIBA World Championship on Friday night at Fenerbahce Arena in Istanbul, Turkey.

The USA will play Australia (4-0), which advanced with a 63-52 win over Canada (2-3) on Oct. 4 (2:15 p.m. EDT, NBA TV and ESPN3/WatchESPN). The other semifinal will see Spain (4-0), which beat China (2-3) 71-55, take on host Turkey (4-0), which narrowly defeated Serbia (3-2) 62-61. The gold and bronze medal games will be contested on Oct. 5.

Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury) led the USA past France with 17 points, five rebounds and two blocked shots, while Tina Charles (New York Liberty) added 15 points and seven rebounds. The two combined for 17 of the USA’s 29 first-quarter points.

“When you come out and shoot the ball the way we shot it in the first half, it’s kind of difficult for the other team to kind of keep pace,” said USA head coach Geno Auriemma (University of Connecticut). “We just have so many good offensive players. They’re a very physical team and they’re a very good defensive team, and they rely on their defense to keep them in games. But, the way we started the game and the way Tina (Charles) and Brittney (Griner) kind of set the tone early on. We were able to get them established in the lane. Then we just played off of that. We have a really good group. The first group is really solid. They’ve played together a lot. Then the second group comes in and I think that’s where we have an advantage, when we sub and they sub, we feel like we have an advantage. That second group was great. Overall, we beat a really good team tonight and we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”

Rounding out the USA’s double-digit scorers were Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx) with 13 points and Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx), who had 10 points, four assists and four rebounds. Forty-five of the USA’s points came off of its bench.

“Whatever they give us, we want to take,” Griner said. “And they were giving us the inside game, so we pounded it in. The guards did a great job of finding us, and we were able to put points up there on the board.”

The USA opened the game with a 3-pointer from Moore and jumped to a 10-2 lead after just two minutes thanks to points from four different scorers. The USA pounded the ball inside to help it shoot a red-hot 92.3 percent from the field (12-13 FGs) and record seven assists in the first 10 minutes. Meanwhile, the USA defense held France to just 29.4 percent from the field (5-17 FGs) to lead 29-14 at the first break.

The second quarter saw the USA pick up right where it left off, this time getting seven points in the period from Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream). France called a timeout at 8:46 with the USA leading 32-14 and another timeout at 4:32, when the USA was leading 46-21. Both times France scored out of the timeouts, including seven straight points the second time, to make it 46-28 at 3:03. Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), who finished with six assists, sank a 3-pointer to end France’s streak, and both teams closed with four more points to head into halftime with the USA on top 53-32.

At the midway point, the USA, which had an incredible 21-6 rebounding advantage at that point, had slightly cooled off to 78.6 percent from the field (22-28 FGs), while France warmed up to 37.1 percent (13-35 FGs).

“I thought we really moved the ball well,” Whalen said. “I think that was first and foremost. It’s always a key for us. We got some easy looks just by penetrating and kicking and finding each other. I thought that we shared the ball well. Anytime we do that and make extra (passes), good things happen, so it was definitely a fun game to play tonight.”

After halftime, France managed to nearly keep pace with the USA, which outscored the Europeans just 19-16 in the third quarter. After six points from the USA and then six points from France, the USA put together five unanswered point to make it 64-38 at 5:28. From there, however, the teams traded baskets to head into the final 10 minutes with the USA leading 72-48.

France outscored the USA 24-22 in the fourth quarter to bring the game to its 94-72 final.

The USA finished with a 38-22 rebounding advantage, and while it shot just 10-of-18 from the free throw line (.556), it committed only 13 fouls to keep France to 7-of-9 shooting from the line (.778).

Sandrine Gruda led France, which ended the game at 41.7 percent from the field (30-72 FGs), with 18 points and nine rebounds.

“It’s going to be a tough game,” said Sue Bird (Seattle Storm) of the USA’s semifinal against Australia. “I understand that everyone is going to look at their team, outsiders looking in, and not see the names that they are used to seeing. But, we played against them, and they are tough and they play very well together. Even though they might not have Lauren Jackson and Elizabeth Cambage and whatever, they have an identity within themselves, and they really play to it. And they still have Penny Taylor, and they still have Belinda Snell and they still have people, Erin Phillips, who have played many years and have been successful, so you cannot overlook them at all. Tomorrow’s game is going to be tough.”

Auriemma is being assisted on the sideline by DePaul University head coach Doug Bruno, Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve and Staley; while University of Hartford head coach Jennifer Rizzotti serves as an advance scout and court coach for the 2014 USA squad.

The USA has advanced to the semifinals in each FIBA World Championship since 1979, when it claimed gold, and has advanced to the semis in 13 of the 16 FIBA Worlds in which it has competed, including 2014.

Since 1979, the American women in the past nine Worlds have claimed six gold medals, one silver medal and two bronze medals, while compiling a 72-5 record (including the 4-0 record in 2014) for a stunning 93.5 winning percentage.

Overall, the USA owns a record eight gold medals, one silver medal and two bronze medals in FIBA World Championship play, while compiling an all-time 101-21 record at the event. In 2010, the most recent World Championship, the U.S. finished with a perfect 9-0 record and the gold medal.

STAT NOTES: The USA previously lost to France 76-72 in exhibition play on Sept. 21 in Paris, France, and beat France 86-50 in the 2012 London Olympic gold-medal game.