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US Women's Basketball Aiming for World Title

Diana Taurasi of USA, right, at World Basketball Championship in Czech Republic, 29 Sept 2010
Diana Taurasi of USA, right, at World Basketball Championship in Czech Republic, 29 Sept 2010

At the women's basketball World Championships in the Czech Republic, the United States has won all six games it has played thus far, earning the top seed for the quarterfinals.

Coach Geno Auriemma and his players are aiming not only for the title but also a berth to the 2012 London Olympics.

After a strong start in the 2006 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Championship for Women, the U.S. team faltered at the end, losing to Russia in the semifinals and coming home with the bronze medal.

But the Americans went unbeaten en route to the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and they are on track to repeat that result at the 2010 World Championships in the Czech Republic. They scored first round wins over Greece, Senegal and France and second round victories over Canada, Belarus and Australia.

They dominated their first five opponents by an average winning margin of 38 points, but had to hold off defending world champion Australia to take an 83-75 triumph.

Co-captain Diana Taurasi of the newly-crowned WNBA champion Seattle Storm, who scored a game-high 24 points against Australia, says the team understands the importance of each game.

"Every game had its challenge, but now it counts for where when you lose a game you're pretty much out. So we know what's at stake. We can't look ahead to any game but for the one that we have coming up," she said.

The U.S. women are coached by Geno Auriemma, who led the University of Connecticut women's basketball team to back-to-back undefeated seasons en route to the past two national championships. All but one of the 12 players selected by coach Auriemma played in the WNBA this season.

Despite the obvious talents of the team, co-captain Sue Bird - who also plays professionally for the Seattle Storm - says the players have good chemistry. "This team is very talented but we also have a very good mix of younger players and older players. Position wise, we have versatility, and we have people who when we buy into the system and when we really accept our roles and play to the best of our ability, we're really good. And that's what's so great about this team," Bird said.

Coach Auriemma, who has experienced unparalleled success in past years at the collegiate level, says a gold medal would mean a lot for himself and the team.

"I'm thoroughly enjoying coaching these players and the way they've responded to what I want them to respond to. I couldn't be happier and I couldn't be happier for them. The teams that they're beating are very, very, very good teams and the teams they're going to have to beat these next three games are the best teams in the world. And if we're fortunate enough to get that done, that would be a pretty incredible accomplishment for sure," he said.

The U.S women look to extend their winning streak in the quarterfinals Friday against South Korea. The gold medal at these world championships will earn an automatic berth to the 2012 London Olympics.