September 28, 2014

ISTANBUL (AP) With Serbia hanging around midway through the fourth quarter, Diana Taurasi and the U.S. women's basketball team stepped up their play to finally pull away.

Taurasi scored 13 of her 20 points in the final period and the Americans beat Serbia 94-74 on Sunday in the world championship to clinch the top seed in Group D.

''It was a tough game,'' Taurasi said. ''Every possession was a battle. They made us work on defense. There are some things we probably got to clean up. These games are good for us. This team hasn't been together very long. In the two weeks that we've been together, we've been battle-tested a couple of times, which in the long run will only help us.''

Unlike previous world championship tournaments where the U.S. would have six games before the elimination rounds, the new format gives the Americans just one more game - against Angola on Tuesday - to get ready for the quarterfinals.

''We just got Brittney Griner two days ago. We just got Candice (Dupree) and Dee (Taurasi) a week ago. We used to use those six games to (get better),'' U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said. ''So, right now we're just trying to get ready for the weekend, for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So, I'm not surprised by the games that they're close, close, close and then we take off. I don't expect us to be up 25 points at halftime. It's just not normal.''

The U.S. trailed by four points after the first quarter and was down six before Maya Moore got the Americans going. She hit three straight 3-pointers, the last starting a 9-0 run that made it 39-31. The U.S. led 49-42 at the half.

While the U.S. used a huge third quarter to put away China in its opener, Serbia hung around, only trailing 77-70 with 6 minutes left. Then Taurasi and the U.S. (2-0) finally took over, scoring 15 of the next 19 points to put the game away.

Taurasi had 10 points during the spurt. Her 3-pointer with 3 minutes left made it 92-74. She hit five 3-pointers in the game as the U.S. shot 56 percent (9 for 16) from behind the arc.

''Our leaders stepped up, and whether it was getting a key bucket, getting a defensive stop that we needed to and everybody continuing to get on the same page,'' Moore said. ''We haven't been together as long as some of these other teams, so we are just continuing to work out the kinks, believing in each other, staying positive and bringing a lot of energy if it was your turn to come in.''

Moore finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and six assists for the U.S.

Ana Dabovic scored 24 points to lead Serbia (1-1), which will close out its pool play against China on Tuesday. China team beat Angola 65-39 in the other Group D game.

Australia remained unbeaten, routing South Korea 87-54, and Belarus edged Cuba 70-69 in Group C. The Czech Republic topped Japan, and Spain beat Brazil in Group A. France routed Mozambique, and Turkey beat Canada in Group B.

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