ISTANBUL — Maya Moore and her U.S. teammates know what’s at stake now. A loss and their world championship run would be over.
Standing in the way of another trip to the medal round is France, a team that handed the Americans a rare defeat on Sept. 21 in an exhibition game. The teams will meet again in the quarterfinals of the tournament Friday night.
“Naturally losing a game is going to open your eyes,” Moore said. “For us, we don’t want to have to be reminded of those lessons by taking a loss, but that’s what happened. We’re going to make the most of it by taking those feelings as motivation going into tomorrow’s game.”
It would be easy for the Americans to make excuses for their 76-72 loss to France. Moore and Diana Taurasi shot a combined 4-for-23 from the field, and Brittney Griner wasn’t with the team yet.
Coach Geno Auriemma doesn’t buy into any of that talk.
“If you’re a great team you have to figure out how to win when two of your best players aren’t making shots,” he said. “Can’t say well we have an excuse because they didn’t make any shots. You still have to find out how to win games. We had an opportunity to win that game and didn’t take advantage of it. And they did.”
Moore was more concerned with aspects that the Americans can control than her poor shooting night.
“We didn’t have the focus and energy that was required to beat them on their home court,” she said. “We definitely are excited to get another shot at playing better and playing together and being more connected now that we’ve been together that much longer against a team that if they get going they can be dangerous.”
The last time these teams met before France’s win was in the gold medal game of the 2012 London Olympics which the Americans won by 36 points. The U.S. has won 29 straight games at the world championship and Olympics since falling to Russia in the semifinals of the 2006 worlds.
Despite the exhibition loss to France, the Americans have looked strong at the worlds. They won their three preliminary round games by an average of 42 points, including a record 75-point victory over Angola on Tuesday to close out pool play Tuesday.
“This team’s been pretty good since we’ve been whole, our entire team’s been together,” Auriemma said. “That Angola game was a prime example of that. We put it all together. So it’s a medal game, quarterfinal game, regardless of who we’re playing tomorrow night the attention is certainly going to be there.”
In other quarterfinal play Friday, Australia will meet Canada, Serbia faces Turkey and China plays Spain.