Brittney Griner

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Basketball: Team USA squashes China 105-62 to finish to group play

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A glittering 60-26 halftime lead helped the United States women’s basketball cruise to

Tina Charles and Brittney Griner led three players in double figures with 18 points each, while Maya Moore banked 8 assists, 8 rebounds and 4 steals. Griner had a double-double with 13 boards.

The U.S. finishes group play with 529 points over five games.

MORE: Full game replay

Team USA played a particularly stingy brand of basketball in the first quarter.

While it certainly didn’t help that China struggled with sloppy shooting and traveling — a Xiaojia Chen 3-point shot was its only field goal in the first five minutes — the United States defense and transition game helped openup a 32-9 lead through Charles’ 12 points and three rebounds.

China was led by Mengran Sun’s 16 points and Wen Lu’s 13.

As the winners of Group A, the United States will get the fourth-placed team in Group B for a quarterfinal game on Wednesday.

U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team announced

Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi
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Sue BirdDiana Taurasi and Brittney Griner will lead the U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team in Rio, seeking a sixth straight title for Team USA.

USA Basketball announced the 12-woman roster, chosen by a committee, featuring a men’s or women’s national record nine players with Olympic experience:

Seimone Augustus (2008, 2012)
Sue Bird (2004, 2008, 2012)
Tamika Catchings (2004, 2008, 2012)
Tina Charles (2012)
Elena Delle Donne
Sylvia Fowles (2008, 2012)
Brittney Griner
Angel McCoughtry (2012)
Maya Moore (2012)
Breanna Stewart
Diana Taurasi (2004, 2008, 2012)
Lindsay Whalen (2012)

Candace Parker, a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, was the only players with Olympic experience who didn’t make the team from the 25 overall finalists announced in January. Other 2012 Olympians Asjha Jones and Swin Cash were not finalists.

Skylar Diggins was also among the finalists who didn’t make the team after being one of the final four cuts from the 2014 World Championship team.

Catchings, 36, is the oldest U.S. Olympic basketball player of all time, according to sports-reference.com.

Stewart, 21, is the youngest U.S. Olympic women’s basketball player since 1988. She recently won her fourth NCAA title with Connecticut and was drafted No. 1 overall by the Seattle Storm.

“Well, first of all when I saw that [national team director Carol] Callan was calling, I had a mini heart attack,” Stewart said, according to the Associated Press. “Because I’m like, ‘What’s going to happen? I don’t know! I don’t know!’ And then I answered it, and obviously I knew who was calling, but when she congratulated me, it was . I was speechless. I did not know what to say.”

Stewart played at the 2014 World Championship just after turning 20, recording a total of 36 minutes over six games and scoring 11 points, fewest on the team.

Catchings, Bird and Taurasi can tie former teammates Teresa Edwards and Lisa Leslie for the most Olympic team sport gold medals for an American.

Griner is on her first Olympic team after withdrawing from 2012 Olympic consideration due to a family illness and her summer school schedule, three months before the London Games.

“When I got the call, I was speechless,” Griner said, according to the AP. “Just knowing that this will be my first Olympics that I’ll be able to go to and play in, I’ve always said that that’s the biggest stage you could play on. It doesn’t get any bigger than putting on that jersey and playing for gold.”

Bird, Taurasi, Moore, Charles and Griner started every game at the 2014 World Championship, which Catchings, Delle Donne and Fowles missed due to injuries.

The U.S. women’s basketball team has won 41 straight Olympic games since losing to the Unified Team in the Barcelona 1992 semifinals.

MORE: Olympic basketball groups announced

Brittney Griner returns as Olympic finalist, this time without fear

Brittney Griner
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Brittney Griner unfurled from her vacation hammock in Cabo San Lucas last week to fly into snowy Storrs, Conn., and a three-day training camp for U.S. Olympic team finalists.

The towering center was not warmly received by all.

“Got my shot blocked a couple of times out here with the guys,” Griner said Tuesday, laughing, of male practice players, typical partners for elite-level women’s workouts. “It only counts when it happens in a game. This doesn’t count, so it’s cool.”

Griner was then asked the last time she was blocked in a game that does count.

She paused a few seconds, determined her answer, stared down at the reporter and delivered a deep pitch.

“B.G. doesn’t get blocked,” Griner boomed, paused again and then briefly chuckled and grinned.

Griner, at 6 feet, 8 inches, was three inches taller than the next-biggest player among 16 in red Team USA jerseys at the University of Connecticut practice facility.

She is the can’t-miss of the 25 finalists overall to make the U.S. Olympic team, not only for her unmistakable presence but also for her story. The narrative is highlighted by but not limited to her decision four years ago to pull her name out of Olympic team consideration while a Baylor University junior.

Sixteen Rio Olympic hopefuls took part in two-hour practices on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, led by UConn and Olympic coach Geno Auriemma and overseen by USA Basketball officials who will choose the 12-woman team later this year to go to Brazil.

Nine of the 25 finalists missed the camp for various reasons, including injuries and professional seasons overseas. It’s expected to be the final camp before the team is named for the Olympics, where the U.S. will seek its sixth straight gold medal.

Griner wore No. 23 and defended her paint in a one-year-old practice gym, surrounded by a combined 36 UConn banners adorning three of the four walls — 10 NCAA titles, eight Olympic gold medalists, eight NCAA Players of the Year and 10 first-team All-Americans (not counting the NCAA Players of the Year).

She wasn’t intimidated.

“I definitely feel a lot more confident this go-around, at a different place [than 2012],” Griner said at the end of the camp. “I hate sounding cocky, but I just feel like I should be here. It feels right.”

Griner had the chance four years ago to become the first college basketball player to make a U.S. Olympic team since 1988.

On March 30, 2012, USA Basketball announced 11 of the 12 players for the London Olympic team. Griner, leading undefeated Baylor into the Final Four at the time, wasn’t one of the 11. But she was seen as a candidate to be named to the team after Baylor won the NCAA title four days later.

Before the 12th player was named, Griner announced on April 19 her withdrawal from Olympic team consideration due to a family illness (she later said her mother had been diagnosed with lupus two years earlier) and her summer school schedule.

Griner said Tuesday that a “fear of being away from what was going on at home” was on her mind before she withdrew.

“That was a hard decision,” she said. “Sitting there, just missing out, just, like, dang, I wish I was there. That feeling. Hopefully, this time I get a chance.”

Griner watched the U.S.’ 86-50 rout of France in the London Olympic gold-medal game on a computer screen in her bed.

“I’m kind of lazy,” she said. “I lay in the bed a lot.”

Griner joined the WNBA one year later and the U.S. national team for the next major tournament — the World Championship in 2014.

At Worlds in Turkey, Griner started all six games with four former UConn stars — Sue BirdDiana TaurasiMaya Moore and Tina Charles — who were four of the primary starters at the 2012 Olympics. When they huddled, the coach delivering instructions was UConn’s Auriemma.

“The UConn squad,” joked Griner, who wore glasses at Worlds after suffering an eye injury in the WNBA Finals.

Griner ranked second on the team per game in points (12.3) and rebounds (6.2) and blocked two shots per game while averaging 19 minutes per contest (sixth on the team).

She also bumped chests and shared technical fouls in a tense moment with Spain forward Laura Nicholls in the third quarter of the final.

“Somebody stares at me, I’m not going to back down,” said Griner, listed five inches taller than Nicholls.

That’s the type of presence Auriemma stressed on Griner as she’s dug into international basketball — both professionally and for her country — the last two years.

“I’m always after Brittney to, you know, you’ve got be tougher, you’ve got be stronger, you’ve got to be more aggressive, you’ve got to be more assertive, because there’s no give when you’re playing in the Olympics,” Auriemma said. “Sometimes when I think you’re a big kid in women’s basketball, you’re kind of a little bit reluctant to be. Little by little, she’s starting to understand that we need her physical presence to be dominant — to be dominant.”

U.S. national team director Carol Callan said she’s known Griner since she was a dunking Houston high school phenom.

Since London, Callan said she’s had more conversations with Griner than the older national team veterans.

“I’m just thrilled that we got her into the World Championship, and she got some experience there,” Callan said. “Now this [the Olympics] is another step on that stage, but it’s not as big a step because she had that transition World Championship year.”

In September, Griner was suspended for a portion of a USA Basketball European training camp due to a domestic violence arrest.

“Brittney, with her struggles a year ago, she’s, as they all are, valuable to us, and we just like to check in and make sure things are OK all along the way,” Callan said.

At the end of the Connecticut camp, Griner was largely jocular during a five-minute interview. Even when looking ahead to a possible appearance at the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony.

“I heard it’s a really long walk,” Griner said of marching in the Parade of Nations. “I’ve got to get ready for that one. Get some stretch on, some Icy Hot.”

MORE: Auriemma: UConn ‘wouldn’t make it at the Olympics’