Americans win tune-up

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HAINING, China --- Seeing Becky Hammon on the Russian side was exactly what the Americans needed.

Diana Taurasi scored 21 points, and the United States pulled away in the second half, beating the Russians 93-58 on Monday night in the FIBA Diamond Ball tournament.

In a much-hyped matchup against her native country, Hammon scored 10 points, but her adopted team was no match for the Americans. This was the first meeting between the teams since the Russians beat the Americans in the 2006 world championship semifinals.

"She made her choice, and that was up to her," U.S. co-captain Katie Smith said. "We're here to represent our country. We have a nice rivalry with Russia with or without her. It's always been a battle whether she's here or not; we'll always bring our best."

Sylvia Fowles and the Americans showed flashes of the dominance that has helped them win three consecutive Olympic gold medals.

Hammon wasn't in the 29-player pool used to select the U.S. Olympic team, so she chose another option: playing for Russia.

A South Dakota native, Hammon competes for a Russian club team during the winter and became a naturalized citizen there. Because she hadn't played for the U.S. in any major FIBA-sanctioned international events, she was allowed to compete for Russia in the Olympics, which begin Friday.

Hammon had her eyes closed and her hand over her heart during The Star-Spangled Banner.

"I think the pregame was worse than anything," she said. "Once the ball went up, it was just another basketball game."

Hammon entered the game midway through the first quarter, as she is still learning the Russian system after only three practices with the team. She missed her first two shots before hitting a 3-pointer to start the second quarter and make it 17-13.

Then, the Americans went on a 26-6 run to close the half, extending the advantage to 43-19.

Fowles added 15 for the U.S. squad, and Tatiana Shchegoleva led Russia with 14 points.

Up next for the United States is rival Australia in what could be a preview of the Olympic gold-medal game.


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