SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE, Spain — Brittney Griner scored 15 points in her first game of the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup to lead the U.S. to a 102-76 victory over Latvia on Tuesday night.
Griner missed the first two contests with a mildly sprained right ankle she injured in practice. She came in midway through the first quarter. She scored six straight during a stretch in the second quarter, including an impressive post move where she faked out her defender.
With Latvia hanging around in the second half only down 11, Griner took over. She scored the first seven points during a 17-0 run to close the third quarter, including a three-point play with 2:16 left. A'ja Wilson then scored the next seven points and Latvia was finished.
While the U.S. (3-0) got Griner back, they didn't have Elena Delle Donne or Sue Bird. Delle Donne is still recovering from a bone bruise in her knee she injured during the WNBA playoffs. She had a big game against Senegal in the opener of the tournament before playing only three minutes against China. Delle Donne said after the game that going back-to-back was tougher on her.
Bird was coming off the grind of the WNBA season that ended in a championship with Seattle. The U.S. doesn't play again until Friday. Layshia Clarendon got the start for the U.S. and made an immediate impact with four steals in the first eight minutes.
Latvia (0-3) has had an unlucky World Cup debut, losing its first two games by a total of four points. That didn't deter the nation's strong fan base from making its presence felt at the game.
Beating drums and screaming loudly on every possession, the fans tried to inspire the team to the monumental upset.
They just didn't have enough offense to do it.
Tina Charles finished with 18 points to lead the U.S. and Diana Taurasi added 16.
Anete Steinberga led Latvia with 30 points. Kitjisa Laksa, who plays at South Florida, added 12.
The victory was the Americans' 19th in a row in the tournament and 44th in the past 45 games in the World Cup. The only blemish over the past 20 years was a loss to Russia in the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup.
The two teams had only met once before in international competitions at the national team level, playing in a pre-Olympic tournament before the 2008 Beijing Games. The U.S. won by 10 points, using a late fourth-quarter run to win.
APPROACHING MILESTONES: The U.S. is 72 points short of becoming the first team in Women's World Cup history to score 10,000 points. ... Sue Bird is 13 assists shy of matching Dawn Staley for the most all-time in U.S. history.
SCOREBOARD: In other games on Tuesday, Greece beat South Korea 58-48; Liz Cambage scored 24 of her 25 points in the first half, hitting her first 11 shots, to help Australia rout Turkey 90-64. Japan beat Puerto Rico 69-61, China topped Senegal 75-66 and Nigeria beat Argentina 75-70. Both African teams advanced to the quarterfinal qualifier. France-Canada and Belgium-Spain played later Tuesday.
Latvia: World Cup tournament is finished.
U.S.: plays in quarterfinals on Friday night. The Americans will play the winner of Nigeria-Greece.