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Sunday, May 13, 2012 - Page updated at 11:00 p.m.
USA dominates China in women's exhibition at KeyArena
By Jayda Evans
Seattle Times staff reporter
USA coach Geno Auriemma was looking for combinations.
One problem arose in his description of what he found after his national team defeated China 100-62 on Saturday at KeyArena.
"I don't think I'm in any of those," point guard Sue Bird quipped.
True. When USA basketball had its most productive span in the second quarter, Bird played minimal minutes. It was a small group led by Lindsay Whalen and highlighted by Tamika Catchings that outscored China 23-12 to put the game away.
"And then we have other options that I won't discuss at this particular time," Auriemma retorted to Bird as she laughed with media.
Bird, the new leader of the Americans, started the game and with a team that only had one practice under their belt as a unit.
Team USA was a little shaky defensively to open, in Seattle for a three-day training camp that ends Sunday morning with a scrimmage against Japan.
A highlight on Saturday was Zenngyu Ma's drive baseline into the teeth of the Americans' defense. Ma simply flung the ball overhead to a waiting Wei Wei in the pocket. The 6-foot-10 center easily banked a jumper that inched China to 29-23.
Then came the United States' run. Catchings, Candace Parker, Whalen and Maya Moore charged the floor against a youthful China team to get transition buckets. Catchings led the team with 19 points. Moore scored 15 off the bench.
The group of WNBA All-Stars didn't include Tina Charles, who is rehabilitating a groin injury.
"One of the problems with playing too many players is there's no way to get any kind of rhythm or continuity going," Auriemma said. "We had to shuffle guys in and out and try different things.
"We could have played eight players and looked really good doing it, but that's not the intent of today. It took us a while to find our stride and find our combination that played well together. The real small lineup, Swin (Cash) being one of them, I thought looked really, really good. Which is what I wanted to find.
"We have to have a small lineup that can do things. Have the ability to put out a really fast lineup. A quick lineup. And a great defensive lineup."
It was USA basketball's first game in Seattle since 1995 when it defeated the University of Washington 92-47. Then it was household names like Lisa Leslie and Jennifer Azzi who dominated the spotlight.
On Saturday, the next generation pulled out enough highlights to fill a vault. The loudest cheer, however, was when Parker, a forward, slipped a layin in the hoop to hit the century mark. But Auriemma was more concerned about getting the team playing well as a unit despite having an overload of individual talent. There are five newcomers to the Olympic Games, and Catchings (Achilles), Parker (knee) and Bird (hip) are returning after suffering injuries within the last year.
"I'm a little shy to talk about my health because of the injuries I've had," said Parker, who finished with 10 points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes.
"I'm just going to continue to try to get in the weight room and try to stay healthy.
"This was a good first experience in terms of coming out.
"Playing for the USA national team was something that I was like, 'whoa!' To be on the floor with such great players is a huge thing. For one practice, we had a good performance."
Ma had 20 points for China and Li Shanshan had 10 off the bench.
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