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U.S., still short-handed, routs Puerto Rico at FIBA Women’s World Cup – Home of the Olympic Channel

SYDNEY — The United States is quickly identifying itself as a stellar defensive squad by using its athleticism to make it difficult for opponents to score.
Shakira Austin scored 19 points, Kahleah Copper added 16 and the U.S. played suffocating defense to rout Puerto Rico 106-42 on Friday in the FIBA Women’s World Cup.
“We talk every day about being hard to play against, getting deflections, and the team has really bought into that,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said.
The Americans (2-0) forced Puerto Rico into 21 turnovers and contested nearly every shot, making every point tough to come by.
“It’s fun playing on a team that loves to play defense. It really fuels our offense,” said Alyssa Thomas, who had six of the Americans’ 13 steals.
The U.S. jumped out to a 27-11 lead after one quarter as Thomas had 10 points and five steals in the opening 10 minutes. The Americans forced nine turnovers in the period. The U.S. kept the pressure on in the second, holding Puerto Rico without a point for nearly the first five minutes of the period.
Mya Hollingshed finally ended the drought, making a contested 3-pointer that made it 40-17. The Americans led 54-21 at the half. There was little drama in the second half as the U.S. kept extending its lead.
The Americans contained guard Arella Guirantes, who had 26 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in Puerto Rico’s opening win over Bosnia and Herzegovina. She was held to seven points on 2-of-12 shooting. The U.S. threw four or five different defenders at her, starting with Copper.
“We like to be aggressive on both ends,” Breanna Stewart said. “We can and will guard multiple positions and make it hard for the other team. Our activity and awareness of one and another on the defensive end will go a long way in the tournament.”
MORE: FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results
The U.S. now has won 24 consecutive World Cup games since losing in the 2006 semifinals to Russia. The Americans are two wins short of matching their record 26-game run from 1998-2006.
Puerto Rico (1-1) was coming off its first-ever World Cup win. Hollingshed, who played in college at Colorado, finished with 10 points.
“The U.S. is the most important team in the tournament, but for us we are just trying to win one more game,” Puerto Rico captain Pamela Rosado said.
Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum landed in Sydney after celebrating the Las Vegas Aces’ first WNBA championship with a parade on Tuesday. They sat on the U.S. bench and cheered on their teammates. A’ja Wilson, the third member of the championship team, was expected to land in Sydney later Friday.
“We’ll get some time in the morning with them before we play against a really good China team tomorrow,” Reeve said. “The depth will be helpful.”
Led by Austin, the U.S. reserves outscored Puerto Rico’s 47-21. Brionna Jones added 15 points and nine boards.
As good as the U.S. defense was, it wasn’t the lowest scoring total by an American opponent. Argentina had 22 points in 1953. … The Americans also fell short of the margin-of-victory record held by the 2014 team that beat Angola 119-44. … Thomas also fell one short of the U.S. record for steals in a game set by Cheryl Miller in 1986. Tamika Catchings had six against Russia in 2002. Olga Gomez of Cuba holds the World Cup record of 10 against France in 1994.
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After three previous bronze medals, Kate Douglass picked up her first individual global title, kicking off the world short course swimming championships with an American record in the 200m individual medley.
Douglass, the Olympic 200m IM bronze medalist, prevailed Tuesday in 2:02.12 in Melbourne in a U.S. one-two with University of Virginia teammate Alex Walsh. Race video is atop this post.
Douglass swam the second-fastest time in history, just off the world record of 2:01.86 set by Hungarian Katinka Hosszu, who had the top 11 times in history. Walsh, who touched in 2:03.37, became the third-fastest performer in history.
Douglass, 21, is known for her versatility. The 200m IM is her trademark event, but she also won bronze in the 200m breaststroke at last June’s world championships in Budapest, plus NCAA titles in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly.
Short course worlds run through Sunday. They are held in a 25-meter pool. Most major international meets, including the Olympics, are held in 50-meter pools.
The U.S. earned a leading six medals among Tuesday’s six finals.
Carson Foster took silver in the men’s 200m IM behind South African Matt Sates. Leah Smith bagged bronze in the 400m freestyle behind Australian Lani Pallister and New Zealand’s Erika Fairweather. The U.S. earned silver in the women’s 4x100m free relay and bronze in the men’s 4x100m free.
The U.S. roster at worlds is headlined by individual Olympic gold medalists Ryan Murphy and Lilly King, plus Torri Huske, who earned six medals June’s worlds in Budapest (50-meter pool), and Claire Curzan, who won five medals in Budapest.
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The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee supports the IOC and other Olympic sports organizations looking for ways for Russian and Belarusian athletes to return, as neutral athletes, to competition in Olympic sports.
USOPC board chair Susanne Lyons said the USOPC was part of a unanimous endorsement of the idea from leading Olympic sports officials who attended a summit at the IOC headquarters of Lausanne, Switzerland, last week.
The summit invitees included, among others, high-ranking IOC members, presidents of prominent international sports federations and leaders of three National Olympic Committees — the U.S., China and Russia.
The USOPC is not yet saying that Russia and Belarus athletes should be allowed to compete at the 2024 Paris Games, or any other international sports competition, in a neutral capacity.
“We did not agree that the athletes would come back,” Lyons, who attended the summit, said Monday, echoing her comments from September. “We agreed that there would now be an exploration and a consultation with stakeholders to see whether there could be a pathway for those individual athletes to come back as neutrals.”
Lyons said that there was “absolute agreement” that, should Russia and Belarus athletes be reinstated, there would be “a stricter neutrality” than occurred at past competitions when Russian athletes competed independently due to the nation’s doping sanctions. In those cases, Russians competed without their national flag and anthem but sometimes with the national colors as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” or “Russian Olympic Committee” athletes.
“The sanctions are very specific,” Lyons said. “It can’t be the colors. it can’t be the name of the country.”
One of the outstanding matters is how Russian athletes could be reintroduced into Olympic qualifying events, which are under way. At last week’s summit, the Olympic Council of Asia president offered to allow Russia and Belarus athletes into competitions on its continent. The IOC plans to explore that possibility.
In February of this year, the IOC called on sport federations to bar Russian and Belarusian athletes from participation in international competition in light of the invasion of Ukraine. But IOC President Thomas Bach has said since at least September that Russian athletes who do not endorse the war could be accepted back into international sports and has drawn a distinction between IOC sanctions against Russia and Belarus and its recommendation that international federations exclude athletes.
“I don’t know how they could possibly really know whether an athlete is or is not supportive of their government actions, but there was at least an agreement [at the summit] that they would want to have athletes who had not actively supported the conflict,” Lyons said. “This is going to be impossible to figure out how they would monitor it.”
Bach said that, after the invasion and before the ban, some governments refused to issue visas for athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete, and other governments prohibited their athletes from competing against athletes from Russia and Belarus. That, along with more similar government actions, led to the IOC’s recommendation for Russia and Belarus athletes to be excluded, which most international sports federations enacted.
“The participation in sport competitions was not based anymore on sports merits, but on purely political decisions,” Bach said. “So we had to act against our own values and our own mission, which is to unify the entire world in peaceful competition. We had, in fact, to protect this intricate integrity of the competitions.
“What we never did, and we never wanted to do is prohibiting athletes from participating in sports only because of their passport.”
Lyons said that one of the initial agreements of the summit was to support Ukraine and its athletes.
“I’m sympathetic with the plight of the Ukrainian people who, by no fault of their own, have this travesty inflicted upon them,” she said. “That said, I think the conversation [about Russia and Belarus athletes] was really more at a conceptual level about what is, first of all, our role as a movement. We have always said that our role is to try to engender peace and unity in sport.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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