It was Asjha Jones' birthday, and her biggest present was 17:43 of playing time in the United States' 89-58 dismantling of a solid Turkish team in the third day of women's basketball pool play at the 2012 London Olympics.. Jones scored eight points, grabbed four rebounds and handed out a pair of assists as part of her contribution to the Americans' third straight win and advancement to the quarterfinals -- and the win came without the presence of Sylvia Fowles, out with an injured foot.
Candace Parker wasn't hurt, but managed just two points on one-of-seven shooting, and Tamika Catchings was scoreless in 18:30, but the tremendous depth of the U.S. team paid off once again. Angel McCoughtry came off the bench to score 18 points (10 of 11 free throws), and also had seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks, and Lindsay Whalen was another non-starter who did well (14 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals, no turnovers). Tina Charles was the most effective starter, with 16 points and seven rebounds, but after Team USA shook off a cold start -- it was 10-6 Turkey with 4:31 remaining in the first quarter -- it was yet another routine demolition.
Most impressive for the winners, perhaps, was their 44-20 edge in points in the paint, which came despite the absence of Fowles, and despite the 11 points from 6-5 American-born Quanitra Hollingsworth, now a Turkish national. The other top Turkish post, Nevriye Yilmaz, was held to just two points and three rebounds in 21:48. Birsel Vardarli also had 11 points for the Turks, but the U.S. defense held them to just 29 percent shooting, and that won't get it done against the best team in the world.
The win moved the U.S. record to 3-0 in Group ! and assured the Americans of moving on to the eight-team, single-elimination playoff bracket that will decide the gold medal. To win Group A, and thus draw the fourth place finisher in Group B in the first round, Team USA must get through the Czech Republic (now 1-2) Friday and China (3-0) on Sunday.
Turkey is 2-1, and gets China on Friday and the Czech Republic on Sunday, and needs to win one game to get through. Of course, the Turks would also like to finish as high as possible to avoid the top teams in Group B, but given the balance in that pool, just advancing is much more important than the difference between second and fourth.