USA National Team defeats No. 12 ASU
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Midway through the first half, the sluggish U.S. national team looked as it was playing for the fifth time in nine nights.
Then voluble star Diana Taurasi picked up a technical foul from the bench. The Americans woke up and rolled to an 82-48 exhibition victory over No. 12 Arizona State on Thursday night, their fifth straight win over a Top 25 team.
"I was trying to inspire the team, get a spark," Taurasi said, smiling. "I think we went on a 40-0 run after the technical. It was strictly for the team. I haven't got one in a while -- and you don't get fined in college."
In reality, the Americans closed the half on a 12-2 run after Taurasi's technical, then outscored the Sun Devils 48-22 in the second half.
"There's not been one game that we've played solid from start to finish," U.S. coach Anne Donovan said. "Once again we were challenged in the first half, and it took the second half before we could really put them away."
Swin Cash and Seimone Augustus each scored 14 points and Lisa Leslie added 13 points and nine rebounds for the United States, which shot 56.9 percent from the floor.
Leslie, who gave birth to a daughter on June 15, said her game is still returning to form. On one second-half breakaway, Leslie went for a layup, ignoring teammates who wanted her to dunk.
"I know that I could dunk, but I'm like, 'You guys have got to be kidding me. There's no way,"' Leslie said.
The United States started slowly, falling behind 15-8. But back-to-back baskets by Kara Braxton launched an 11-2 run to put the national team ahead 19-17.
The Americans turned up the defensive pressure late in the first half, holding the Sun Devils scoreless for the last 4:52 to take a 34-26 halftime lead.
"They're showing that they're the world's best players," said ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne, who underwent an emergency appendectomy on Sunday night. "A lot of us are hanging with them, and then they're cranking it up and putting the games away, and that's what they should be doing. I'm proud of them."
The national team forced 30 turnovers while limiting the Sun Devils to 20 field goals.
Briann January scored 14 points for Arizona State, which reached the NCAA regional finals last spring.
In the first four games of its eight-campus tour, the United States beat No. 4 Maryland, No. 2 Connecticut, No. 1 Tennessee and No. 15 Baylor. The national team will visit 11th-ranked Texas A&M on Sunday.
It was Taurasi's first appearance in the Phoenix area since leading the Phoenix Mercury to their first WNBA title in September.
Taurasi received a big ovation during pregame introductions. But she went to the bench with her third foul with 7:16 to go in the first half. Twenty-three seconds later, referee Lisa Jones assessed Taurasi with a technical foul for arguing.
Taurasi, who averaged a team-high 19.5 points in the first four games of the tour, finished with five points in 21 minutes.