LOCALS IN LONDON
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LONDON — The U.S. women expect their toughest Olympic test so far when they play unbeaten Turkey on Wednesday in the women's basketball tournament.
The Turks have looked impressive in their first Olympic appearance and aren't intimidated by the top-ranked team in the world.
The U.S. has won its first two contests by an average of 38.5 points and is coming off a 52-point win over Angola. Turkey, however, hung with the Americans for three quarters of an exhibition game in Istanbul nine days ago before the U.S. pulled away to a 19-point victory.
"I've always thought that you can't judge what happens in any of the exhibition games leading up to the Olympics as to whether or not that's the team you're going to play," U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said. "We're going to play a really good team — a team that's got some size, they shoot the ball exceptionally well, they've got tremendous experience.
"I've been incredibly impressed with them since last year's European championships. I know we'll play a somewhat different team than we played in Istanbul. I know we'll have to play a lot better than we played in Istanbul."
There definitely is a familiarity between the two squads with six of the American players having spent time playing for Turkish clubs in the winter.
Seimone Augustus, Tina Charles, Sylvia Fowles and Tamika Catchings have played for Galatasaray, while Angel McCoughtry suited up for rival Fenerbahce. Diana Taurasi has been on both teams, which have a heated rivalry.
Lindsay Whalen will be the latest American Olympian to join a Turkish team next year when she plays for Galatasaray. She's been able to impact games for the U.S. women's team serving as the backup point guard to Sue Bird.
"She's definitely been a great change-up," Auriemma said. "Lindsay is much more direct, more physical than Sue. There's bodies flying when she's in the game. The tempo gets a little quicker when she's in the game."
Whalen has spent the past few years playing in the Czech Republic and was excited for the change. Her new team held a press conference for her when the U.S. was training in Istanbul.
"A lot of these girls will be my teammates next year or my opponents," Whalen said. "That's the way international basketball is. You get to play with girls one day and the next you're playing against them. Having the familiarity helps as you know what they can do."
The Americans (2-0) could be playing without Fowles against Turkey. She didn't play in the team's 52-point win over Angola on Monday night, resting a sore left foot. Fowles took it easy in practice on Tuesday.
"We'll see how it feels tomorrow morning," she said. "If I can go I'll go, if I can't I won't. We're not going to rush it and be smart."
Turkey has played in its wins over Angola and the Czech Republic and feel they have a chance to beat the U.S., which includes former Collins Hill star Maya Moore.
"Being that we were in the game with them with 3½ quarters our confidence is up," said center Quanitra Hollingsworth, who was born in the U.S. and starred at VCU before becoming naturalized to play for Turkey in May. "We know that if we come ready to play and focus we can give them a run for their money."
The one thing that the Turks won't have in London is the huge home crowd that backed them in the exhibition game. Still Auriemma doesn't think that will make too much of a difference.
"Home fans wherever we play other than their home team, their next favorite team is whoever is playing the U.S." he said. "The atmosphere here has been great."
After facing Turkey, the Americans — who have won 35 straight Olympic contests and four consecutive gold medals — still have contests against China and the Czech Republic in the preliminary round.