OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — It would have been easy for the U.S. women’s basketball team to coast to another rout after building a 33-point halftime lead.
Instead the Americans focused on coming out strong to start the second half — something they’ve struggled with lately.
The U.S. scored 10 of the first 12 points in the third quarter en route to a 108-52 victory over Senegal on Friday night at the women’s basketball world championship. Even up 46 points later in the period, Candice Dupree hustled back defensively to stop a Senegal break and then sprinted down to the other end of the floor to score an easy layup.
“Coach Auriemma talked about that in the locker room,” U.S. point guard Sue Bird said. “The start of the third quarter is something the team has struggled with a bit. It’s been an emphasis and we wanted to come out and put a stamp on the game in the beginning of the third.”
In an exhibition against Senegal last week, which the Americans won by 42 points, the teams were tied in the third quarter. The U.S. had the same problem in Thursday’s win over Greece. Up by 17at the half, the Greeks played them even in the third quarter.
“I think sometimes the mentality of professional basketball players is that they play so many games that you get a big lead like we had and it’s a chance to relax,” U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said. “You don’t have a lot of games in this tournament. If you’re lucky you get to play nine. There’s no time to relax.
“We had a better second half than first half, which is a good sign.”
Maya Moore scored 15 points and Dupree added 14 to lead a balanced U.S. offense that had six players in double figures. Swin Cash and Tina Charles had 11 each, while Lindsay Whalen and Sylvia Fowles had 10.
“We have so much talent on this team and at any point any player on this team goes off,” Bird said. “That’s where our advantage lies. We do have the depth. We can go 12 deep and it could be anyone in double figures, six people or seven people.”
The game quickly turned into a rout for the Americans, who broke the 100-point mark for the 14th time in world championship play.
The U.S. (2-0), which has only had its team together for a few days, went on an early 17-0 run that looked like a pre-game layup drill. Diana Taurasi started the spurt with consecutive three-point plays.
Awa Gueye ended Senegal’s 5-minute scoring drought with a 3-pointer from the corner, but then the Americans scored 18 of the next 24 points, hitting five more layups to put the game away.
“Sometimes the offense looks pretty good,” Auriemma said. “Tonight it looked really good at times.”
Fatou Dieng scored 10 points to lead Senegal (0-2).
The U.S. players looked like they were having fun on the court.
“Everyone has an opportunity to score the ball,” Dupree said. “We have a lot of movement out there, so we get a lot of easy looks on the other end of the floor.”
By the time the game reached the half, the Americans led 58-25 with every player on the team in the scoring column.
Asjha Jones’ jumper with 4 minutes left in the fourth quarter gave the Americans 100 points. They finished short of their world championship record of 119 set against China in 2006. That was the last time they crossed the 100-point mark.
The Americans shot 61 percent from the field and outscored Senegal 66-22 in the paint.
The U.S. will play France on Saturday. Senegal will face Greece in the finale of Group B.
Despite the lopside score, Senegal didn’t quit.
“You just try to go hard,” Aya Traore said. “It doesn’t matter if you lose by 100 or two points, we want to play and go to the end.”