Dominant Team USA keeps playing hard and having fun

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 6, 2012 - 11:35 PM
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Team USA point guard Lindsay Whalen (4)

Photo: Harry E. Walker, MCT

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LONDON - Asked to cite her favorite moments of the Olympics thus far, Lindsay Whalen couldn't make up her mind.

She couldn't pick out one moment on the court because no particular moment has been that meaningful as the U.S. women's basketball team has run its Olympic winning streak to 38 games with a series of blowouts.

So she searched for personal moments: Seeing the Olympic torch come together, finding "cool'' Italian restaurants in a quaint portion of London, and the bus rides.

The bus rides? She's in London with her first Olympic team, her family has joined her, she looks to be on her way to a gold medal, and she picks the bus rides?

"We have fun on our bus rides,'' she said.

And that seems to be one secret of the U.S. women's ongoing success. They will face Canada on Tuesday in the quarterfinals, one game after tying their Olympic record for points in a 114-66 victory over China, and the players seem neither overwhelmed by their history nor overconfident against overmatched opponents.

However trite this may sound, they seem to be having fun, whether riding the bus or whipping an opponent.

"I just love being around the team and the coaches and the staff,'' Whalen said. "They're great people to be around. Being here, with everybody on the same schedule, you really start to connect with your teammates.''

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the team is the effectiveness of the second unit. Diana Taurasi and Candace Parker are and have been two of the best players in the world. They are remarkable combinations of size, speed, skill and experience.

Often in this tournament, the second unit has blown the game open. Whalen and Lynx teammates Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus have played well together and have meshed with Angel McCoughtry, whose speed and aggressiveness has her leading the most dominant team of the Olympics in scoring, with 13 points a game.

Whalen, thought to be a distributor on a team of stars, is fourth in scoring at 10 points per game, followed by Moore at 9.2. McCoughtry is shooting 66 percent from the field; Whalen is shooting 63 percent.

Whalen is second on the team with 14 assists; starting point guard Sue Bird has 26. Their closest game has been a 25-point victory over Croatia in the opener.

"Now the real games begin,'' Bird said.

"We've had a good tournament, and now it's time to finish it,'' Moore said. "I think we've got too many veterans and too much experience to let down. That kind of thing is purely up to us. So that's the same mindset we're going to have when we play our next game.''

The players know they have entered a new phase of the tournament. They are heavy favorites to win the gold, but one loss would eliminate -- and embarrass -- them. Whalen feels a heightened sense of responsibility, too, because her family has joined her in London and will be watching from the stands as she tries to fulfill a longtime dream.

"Seeing the excitement on my parents' faces, that's been really special,'' Whalen said. "It's pretty great, having everyone here for these games. Now we've just got to keep winning.''

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