Good things happen when Diana Taurasi is on the court.
Her teammates know it. The opposing players see it. And United States women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma certainly recognizes it.
“I’ve always been of the opinion that as long as we have Diana Taurasi on the court playing with our team, that we have a chance to win every single game that we play,” he said.
Taurasi had 20 points and shot 7-for-13 as the United States earned a 104-89 win over Australia at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night, finishing up a 4-0 exhibition schedule ahead of the Rio Olympics in August.
Taurasi was helped by a bench that provided impressive support against Australia, largely considered the second-best team in the world. Elena Delle Donne scored 19 points and shot 7-for-10. Brittney Griner added 15 points and Angel McCoughtry had 12.
Taurasi is aware of what it means to have quality depth in the Olympics.
“That’s always been our wild card since I was part of that bench in 2004,” she said. “Then you look at our bench; it’s just a starting five that gets in the game a little later.”
The bench made the difference in the early minutes of the second quarter. Leading 28-25 after the first quarter, the United States needed a spark, and Delle Donne and McCoughtry totaled the final 12 points in a 13-0 run.
After more strong play from second-unit members Lindsay Whalen (eight points) and Seimone Augustus at the end of the third quarter, the United States led 89-71.
“Most teams have really good starting fives; most teams have a little bit of depth,” Auriemma said. “They’re a national team, so it’s the best that they have. But we feel like we have some players coming off the bench who are hard to deal with.”
Backed by an electric crowd of 13,520, Team USA was efficient, aggressive and smart.
Syosset’s Sue Bird, who is making her fourth trip to the Olympics, said the crowd helped influence the team’s play.
“We’ve never had anything like this,” she said. “We’ve never had a U.S. send-off like this, where we kind of traveled around and hit a bunch of cities. It’s pretty special; it’s pretty cool.”