ISTANBUL (AP) All that stands between the U.S. women's basketball team and a second straight world championship gold medal is Spain.
This is the game everyone expected for the finals of the men's world cup last month, but Spain fell short, losing before the gold medal game, which was won by the Americans. Now the Spanish women's team will try and pull off the upset Sunday to win their first gold medal.
It may seem like a monumental task against the eight-time world champs who feature a roster full of WNBA All-Stars. Yet Spain has been impressive in the worlds so far.
''Spain deserves to be in the championship game. They deserve to be there because they played well the whole tournament and because they beat the home team in front of a great crowd in a great game,'' U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said. ''They have earned their way to the game.''
Spain is led by one of the best players in Europe, guard Alba Torrens. She scored 28 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter, to help the Spaniards beat Turkey 66-56 in the semifinals.
These two teams last played in the 2010 world championship semifinals and the U.S. came away with a 36-point win. Sue Bird expects a different team to show up on Sunday.
''They're Spanish, they thrive on emotion, screaming Vamos after every score,'' Bird said. ''When they've got it going, they really get it going. It's a team that hasn't been to the finals ever, but they've been knocking on this door for a long time and it's going to be tough.''
So far, the Americans have won every game by double figures, although it took about 35 minutes for them to finally put away pesky Australia in the semifinals.
Spain will have to figure out a way to stop the dominant interior game of the U.S. Even when Brittney Griner got in foul trouble against Australia, Tina Charles and Nneka Ogwumike stepped right in.
''It should be a really great matchup as far as the two best teams in the tournament, I think, meeting in the gold medal game,'' said Maya Moore. ''Spain has a lot of great weapons, offensive talent, some versatile posts, guards that are pretty slippery and can get to the paint. So, we are going to have our hands full.''
Despite being a heavy underdog, Spain is not afraid of the U.S.
''It's going to be a dogfight out there,'' said Spanish forward Sancho Lyttle. ''Everyone wants to win a gold medal.''
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