LONDON — American-born Becky Hammon scored eight straight points
down the stretch to help her adopted nation of Russia rally for a
58-53 victory over Canada on the opening day of Olympic women’s
Trailing 50-40 with six minutes left, Russia closed the game with
an 18-3 run led by Hammon. Anna Petrakova hit a 3-pointer and a
lay-in to get the spurt started. Then Hammon took over, after
struggling in the first three quarters of the Group B game.
“You just keep playing and good things will happen,” said Hammon,
who plays for the WNBA’s San Antonio Silver Stars. “Defensively
we got a lot better in the fourth quarter. We got some
deflections and were able to run.”
In Group A games, China beat the Czech Republic 66-57 and Turkey
routed Angola 72-50 in the Olympic debut for both teams.
Hammon is playing in her second Olympics for Russia, the European
champions. The South Dakota native became a Russian naturalized
citizen before the Beijing Games and helped Russia win the bronze
there. Because she hadn’t played for the United States in any
major FIBA-sanctioned international events, she is allowed to
compete for Russia in the Olympics.
And she delivered when Russia needed her most.
“We found good balance only at the end and we went to our
leader,” Russia coach Boris Sokolvskiy said. “Becky understood
that her 3-point shot was not good tonight so she went under the
basket and created many opportunities for us.”
Her layup with 2:35 left tied the game at 50. She followed 30
seconds later with a basket that gave Russia its first lead since
early in the opening quarter. Hammon then scored another layup
that made it 54-51 with 1:06 left. She capped her own run with
“I couldn’t throw it in the ocean if I was sitting in a boat,”
said Hammon, who missed all five of her three-point attempts. “I
just kept working and believing eventually the shots would fall.
My teammates kept telling me to keep shooting.”
Canada couldn’t make another basket the rest of the way and
couldn’t stop Hammon.
“She’s a great player, she’s a clutch player and picked us a part
in the first half,” said Kim Smith, who led Canada with 20
points. “In the second half she took them on her back and made
some really amazing finishes on her layups.”
Canada returned to the Olympics for the first time in 12 years
after earning the final spot in the women’s field. Despite the
loss, the team wasn’t discouraged.
“Honestly we knew we were good coming in,” Smith said. “We’re a
team that’s under the radar, but we don’t feel like we can’t
compete here. We’re confident we can come into any game and
Canada qualified for the Olympics for the first time since 2000
after finishing fifth in the pre-Olympic qualifier earlier this
Russia is missing its star center Maria Stepanova, who is out
with a knee injury.
Ma Zengyu scored 16 points to lead China past the Czech Republic
in first game of the competition.
China held double-digit leads in the first and second halves, but
needed a 13-4 spurt to end the game to seal the victory.
The gritty Czech Republic never led after scoring the first
basket of the game, but battled back to tie the game twice – once
at 24 and again at 53 with 7:34 to play.
China used a couple of missed shots by the Czechs to pull away
down the stretch and surprise the 2010 World Championship silver
Turkey, which was runner-up to Russia at the Europeans, won its
Olympic debut and spoiled Angola’s.
Emine Palazoglu led Turkey with 13 points. American-born center
Quanitra Hollingsworth and Saziye Ivegin added 10 each. All 12
Turkey players played and all but two scored against overmatched
Nacissela Mauricio led Angola with 11 points. Turkey shot 50
percent from three-point range, making half of its 16 attempts.
Angola did not score until 3:20 left in the first quarter after
Turkey opened the contest with a 13-0 run.
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