HAINING (FIBA Diamond Ball) - Diana Taurasi enjoys the big occasion and on Monday at the FIBA Diamond Ball for Women, that was the case as the USA superstar and her teammates took on Russia and blew out their rivals 93-58.
Taurasi erupted for 12 of her game-high 21 points in the first half as the Americans built an unassailable 43-19 lead.
The encounter had extra spice with American-born Becky Hammon playing in just her second game with Russia and her first against the USA – a team that passed on her services.
Hammon, after putting her hand over her heart during the playing of the American national anthem, played well in more than 26 minutes, scoring 10 points and coming up with three steals, but was helpless to prevent the US onslaught.
The US players and their coach Anne Donovan were eager to defuse any lingering controversy over Hammon, a native of South Dakota and star in the WNBA with San Antonio, choosing to play for one of the country’s biggest adversaries in basketball.
"It's not an issue anymore,” Donovan said.
“We are playing Russia right now. They are 12 players and everyone on that team is our opposition."
As for Hammon, the 31-year-old guard said: “The pre-game was more difficult, but once I got on the court, it was all about basketball.
“We need to improve but we knew this was the case.”
Russia beat the United States in the semi-finals of the 2006 FIBA World Championship and won the European title last year, but after defeats to Latvia and the United States here in Haining, alarm bells are ringing.
"This game looks like we are not ready,” Russia coach Igor Grudin said.
“We have a little bit of time to do something. We will work for that, to go and get a medal at the Olympics which was our intention coming to China.
"Team USA's performance was better than ours. Team USA had a higher spirit. They were able to stop our offense. They also destroyed our defense.”
The United States dominated, out-rebounding Russia 42-26 while also making 30 of 47 inside the arc compared to 16 of 44 for Grudin’s team.
New USA center Sylvia Fowles had another big game for the USA with 15 points and five rebounds.
Katie Smith also had 12 points and four boards.
One bright spot for Russia was the offensive showing of Tatiana Shchegoleva, who made all four of her three-balls and scored 12.
Russia’s biggest star, Maria Stepanova, endured a difficult game with just five points on two of eight shooting.
"I think we are pleased with this game,” Donovan said.
“We wanted to accomplish things. Our goal right now is to get better every game. We feel good about this game but we take it for what it is.
"We take this with a grain of salt because this is not the Olympics.
"These girls are committed to getting better. I am really pleased with the improvement from yesterday to today."