Russia women rally to beat Canada

LONDON -- Becky Hammon delivered when Russia needed her most.

The South Dakota native scored eight straight points down the stretch to help Russia rally from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter Saturday to beat Canada 58-53 on the opening day of women's basketball at the Olympics.

"You just keep playing and good things will happen," said Hammon, who plays for the San Antonio Silver Stars. "Defensively we got a lot better in the fourth quarter. We got some deflections and were able to run."

Hammon is playing in her second Olympics for Russia. She became a Russian naturalized citizen before the Beijing Games. Because she hadn't played for the United States in any major FIBA-sanctioned international events, she is allowed to compete for Russia in the Olympics.

Her patriotism was questioned in 2008 when she played with Russia, which won the bronze medal. Hammon's second Olympics isn't drawing as much attention.

She said there's not "so much hoopla around me and everyone's kind of settled in. Other girls are playing for other teams, so it's not so much focused on me."

The 5-foot-6 Hammon came up big for Russia against Canada.

Trailing 50-40 with 6 minutes left, Russia closed the game with an 18-3 run led by Hammon. Anna Petrakova hit a 3-pointer and a lay-in to get the spurt started. Then Hammon took over. After struggling in the first three quarters, she got going.

"We found good balance only at the end and we went to our leader," Russia coach Boris Sokolvskiy said. "Becky understood that her 3-point shot was not good tonight so she went under the basket and created many opportunities for us."

Her lay-in with 2:35 left tied the game at 50. She followed 30 seconds later with a basket that gave Russia its first lead since early in the opening quarter. Hammon then scored another lay-in that made it 54-51 with 1:06 left. She capped her own run with another layup.

"I couldn't throw it in the ocean if I was sitting in a boat," said Hammon, who missed all five of her three-point attempts. "I just kept working and believing eventually the shots would fall. My teammates kept telling me to keep shooting."

Canada couldn't make another basket the rest of the way and couldn't stop Hammon.

"She's a great player, she's a clutch player and picked us a part in the first half," said Kim Smith, who led Canada with 20 points. "In the second half she took them on her back and made some really amazing finishes on her layups."

Canada returned to the Olympics for the first time in 12 years after earning the final spot in the women's field. Despite the loss, the team wasn't discouraged.

"Honestly we knew we were good coming in," Smith said. "We're a team that's under the radar, but we don't feel like we can't compete here. We're confident we can come into any game and compete."

Canada, which will play Britain on Monday, qualified for the Olympics for the first time since 2000 after finishing fifth in the pre-Olympic qualifier earlier this month.

Canada's roster is full of former and current U.S. college players. Courtney Pilypaitis starred for Vermont while Lizanne Murphy played at Hofstra. Natalie Achonwa has played in the last two Final Fours for Notre Dame.

Russia is missing star center Maria Stepanova. The 6-foot-8 star, who has played in the last four Olympics, tore her anterior cruciate ligament at the Euroleague final eight in late March.

The Russians will face Brazil on Monday.

"We're a work in progress," Hammon said, "we still have a lot of room for growth."