BEIJING (Olympics) – South Dakota’s Becky Hammon never played for the United States and now she’ll have a chance to beat them in the semi-finals at the Olympics after leading her adopted Russia to a come-from-behind win against Spain.
Hammon had 10 of her 17 points in the second half and Tatiana Shchegoleva scored 12 of her 19 after the interval as Russia won 84-65.
"I am going to enjoy the moment here for an hour more and then start thinking about Team USA,” Hammon said to FIBA.com.
"It was a tremendous effort from our girls to stick together. There was a time when we could have folded very easily.”
Russia, who beat Spain in a thrilling EuroBasket Women final last year in Italy, trailed by 16 points in the first half and were still behind at 49-41 in the third quarter when Hammon took over.
The CSKA Moscow guard scored in the lane and also hit a three-pointer in a 9-0 run that was capped by Oxana Rakhmatulina’s lay-up as Russia went in front for the first time at 50-49 with 2:43 left in the frame.
With the game still knotted at 51-51, Hammon hit a three-pointer for a 54-51 advantage and following Anna Montanana’s three-ball immediately after, a struggling Maria Stepanova replied for Russia down low and put them in front for good.
Shortly after Hammon joined Russia for the Diamond Ball for Women in Haining, the team lacked chemistry and they have still not got into a good rhythm.
On Tuesday, though, with Hammon and a Stepanova that finally showed signs of life, the Russians looked more dangerous.
"If you would have seen at the pre-tournament (Diamond Ball for Women) two weeks ago, we would have folded so we have made progress,” Hammon said.
"It feels very good. Minor miracle, I hope there are more miracles in store.”
Stepanova had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Hammon was six of nine from the floor and a perfect three of three from behind the arc.
When asked what the Russians’ chances would be against Team USA, Hammon replied: "You always have a chance but it's a long shot.
“They are the best team in the world. They have been proving it for the entire month that they have been together.
“In order for us to compete, we are going to have to play flawless, a perfect game.
“The good thing about basketball and life is that anything can happen on any given night."
For Spain and Amaya Valdemoro, it’s back to the drawing board.
Valdemoro had 16 points for Spain but just two in the second half.
"It's the same old story with Russia,” Valdemoro said to FIBA.com.
“We had the same situation at the World Championship where we were in front but then they come back.
“They threw us out of the game in the second half.
“They dominated rebounds and got back in the game.”
Russia out-rebounded Spain 40-29 and also finished eight of 13 from three-point range compared to six of 16 for Spain.
“I'm tired of losing against Russia,” Valdemoro said.
“We played two good quarters and then from the 21st minute, we let it go."FIBA