U.S. beats Australia in hoops exhibition

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Geno Auriemma has only had the U.S. women's national basketball team together for five days and they've already shown tremendous improvement from July when they lost by 15 in a scrimmage to Australia.

Maya Moore scored 16 points and Kara Lawson added 15 to help the U.S. beat Australia 89-56 in an exhibition game Friday night.

"Coach has reminded us every day about the way we played against them," Lawson said. "We were trying to establish our dominance as a team."

Tamika Catchings wasn't able to play in that scrimmage but watched from the sidelines.

"You could see we didn't play with much energy on the defensive end against them," Catchings said. "There's no question we have a lot of scorers, but we need to be able to stop people."

The WNBA's defensive player of the year brought just that on Friday night with three steals and three blocks -- including one of 6-foot-8 Elizath Cambage. The Americans forced 24 turnovers and outrebounded Australia 47-30.

Both teams were missing a number of key players.

The U.S. was without Sue Bird, Swin Cash and Angel McCoughtry, who were playing in the WNBA finals that begin Sunday. Candice Dupree and Cappie Pondexter also weren't at the game Friday night. Both were eliminated in the WNBA conference finals earlier this week and hadn't show up to camp yet.

Australia was missing WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson and Penny Taylor.

"It probably impacts our group a lot more than the U.S. since there depth is a great strength," Australia coach Carrie Graf said. "For us, it's a chance to try some combinations."

While all five U.S. players have a legitimate chance to be on the final roster for the worlds, a bigger issue for the Americans is the health of center Sylvia Fowles, who had knee surgery last week to repair a torn meniscus. She's rehabbing the knee and is expected to arrive in Hartford on Saturday where she will be evaluated.

"We're hoping she's ready for the worlds," women's national team director Carol Callan said. "The roster isn't due until Sept. 21, so we have two weeks to see where she's at. But in the end we want what's best for Sylvia. This tournament is just one moment in time and she'll be part of USA basketball for a long time."

The Americans are already missing Candace Parker, who has been sidelined for the last few months with a separated shoulder. Parker and Fowles were the only returning post players from the 2008 Olympic team.

The lack of size up front was a concern for Auriemma.

Even without Jackson, the Aussies still had a big front line that included Cambage. The 19-year-old scored the Aussies' first six points with two nifty post moves and two free throws. She finished the game with 18 points.

"She's a lot better than when I saw her the first time," Auriemma said. "She's made that much progress in two months, I can only imagine another three weeks or four weeks. Then two years at the Olympics."

Cambage was the Aussies' only consistent offense in the first quarter as the Americans built a 26-16 lead by the end of the period.

Australia cut its deficit to 31-22 on consecutive 3-pointers by Hollie Grima, but the U.S. answered with 15 straight points, the last five by Moore.

On the final sequence of the run, the UConn senior turned the ball over, stole it back and then hit a deep 3-pointer to make it 46-22 much to the delight of the crowd. The U.S. led 46-24 at halftime.

Australia could only get within 16 points in the second half. The biggest cheer in the second half came when Diana Taurasi entered the game for the first time with about 1½ minutes left in the third quarter. Her flight landed in Hartford about an hour before tipoff. She played five minutes and scored two points.

"I told Coach I wanted to play," Taurasi said. "I'm here so why not get in the game."

Australia will play Spain in an exhibition game on Saturday and the U.S. will play Spain on Sunday.

All three teams head to Spain to play another series of exhibition games next weekend before going to the Czech Republic.