US women reach semis after 94-72 rout of France
ISTANBUL (AP) Geno Auriemma had a simple plan against France - pound the ball inside.
The coach's strategy worked to near perfection, with the United States shooting a team-record 71 percent in a 94-72 rout at the women's world championship Friday night.
Brittney Griner had 17 points and Tina Charles 15 for the U.S., which will face Australia in the semifinals Saturday.
''Coach said that we were just going to keep going inside,'' the 6-foot-8 Griner said. ''I knew it was my job to finish.''
In other games Friday, Spain beat China 71-55 and Turkey defeated Serbia 62-61. Spain and Turkey meet in the other semifinal Saturday.
Griner and Charles combined to make 14 of their 18 shots as the U.S. dominated the paint, outscoring France 62-24.
''That was the plan,'' point guard Sue Bird said. ''We wanted to get stops on the defensive end, run as fast as we could and then get the ball inside. We were able to generate really good shots and there are enough players on this team if you get them their looks that they're probably going to make them. Everyone took their shot.''
France had handed the U.S. a rare exhibition loss on Sept. 21, rallying from an 18-point deficit for the four-point win. In that game Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi combined to shoot 4-for-23, and Griner wasn't with the team.
''I knew what happened there, but honestly it wasn't about revenge, it's about the gold,'' Griner said.
Griner got the U.S. going early, scoring nine points in the opening quarter, displaying a nifty set of post moves that either produced baskets or drew fouls. Her one disappointment was missing six free throws. Charles was equally effective - when she wasn't feeding Griner down low she was scoring from inside and out.
The U.S. led 29-14 after the first period and extended the lead in the second, its depth proving too much. Angel McCoughtry scored six straight points, including a spectacular drive from the wing after coach Geno Auriemma yelled ''take her, Angel.'' That made it 44-21.
France made a mini-run scoring, seven straight to close to 46-28 before Taurasi hit a 3-pointer - her first shot of the game to end the burst. The Americans led 53-32 at the half, making 79 percent of their shots. That sent the team on its way to surpassing the previous team record of 69 percent set against Taiwan in 1986.
France occasionally slowed the Americans' fast break in the second half. But on one play, Moore grabbed a rebound, dribbled up court going behind her back and fired a no-look pass to Charles for a layup that made it 68-42.
''We're such an unselfish team and it's always great to reward the big players when they run the floor,'' Moore said smiling.
France drew within 17 in the fourth quarter, but no closer.
''They came out very great tonight and we just couldn't stop them,'' said Sandrine Gruda, who led France with 18 points.
The U.S. has won 30 straight games at the world championship and Olympics since falling to Russia in the semifinals of the 2006 worlds. The Americans also improved to 7-1 against France in the worlds. The lone loss came in 1971.
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