OSTRAVA, Czech Republic – Usually when the U.S. women's basketball team faces Australia in the world championship, a medal is at stake.
When the rivals play Wednesday night, only the top seed in the quarterfinals will be at risk. Still, the Americans plan to play to win their group.
"Tomorrow is going to be like a gold-medal game. I know it is on our end," U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said. "It's important to us. There's no guarantee that either the U.S. or Australia will be in the gold-medal game.
"There are some teams that play one way when the game means something and play another way when the game doesn't mean something. I think tomorrow, you got two teams that really want to win and really want to beat each other."
The Aussies seemed to have a different take on Wednesday's matchup of unbeaten teams. They see it as a chance to evaluate where they stack up against the Americans when both teams are at full strength. The two powerhouse teams split a pair of exhibition games in the last month when neither team had a full roster.
"The result doesn't matter really," Australia coach Carrie Graf said. "Everything isn't riding on that game. You have to be intelligent about how you play the tournament."
Australia star Lauren Jackson, who has never beaten the U.S., found it strange to be playing them before the medal rounds.
"It is weird, it's a different format having us crossover," said Jackson, who plays for the WNBA champion Seattle Storm. "It's weird playing them earlier. It's a good thing as well. America is a powerhouse and it's a test to see where we are, what we need to work on."
If Tuesday night's win over Belarus is any indication, the U.S. is ready and focused.
Sylvia Fowles scored 15 points and Diana Taurasi added 14 to help the U.S. win 107-61. Candice Dupree had 12 and Swin Cash 11 in another balanced offensive effort by the U.S., which shot 68 percent.
After watching his team get off to slow starts in the last two games, U.S. coach Geno Auriemma changed his starting lineup, inserting Dupree and Tina Charles. The move paid off as the pair combined to score the team's first 10 points and the U.S. (5-0) took a 23-6 lead in the game's first 7 minutes.
"We made a couple changes in the starting lineup to give us a new look and it worked great," Auriemma said.
With the game tied 6-6, Dupree started a 17-0 run with a turnaround jumper and a layup. Taurasi followed with a 3-pointer and another basket. She capped the spurt with two free throws with 3 minutes left in the quarter.
Marina Kress finally ended the drought, hitting a 3-pointer to make it 23-9. That didn't slow down the Americans, who scored 14 of the next 16 points to end the quarter.
Cash, who was removed from the starting lineup along with Fowles, had seven points during that spurt. The U.S. led by 26 after the first quarter and 30 at the half.
The United States reached 100 points for the 15th time in world championship play, crossing the plateau on Maya Moore's layup. Moore finished with 11 points.
Yelena Leuchanka, who plays for the Atlanta Dream during the WNBA season, scored nine points to lead the Belarusians (2-3) in their first game against the U.S.
Dupree kept up her offensive prowess, shooting 6-for-7. She is shooting 84 percent for the tournament.
The Belarusians have improved on the international scene in the last few years. They finished third at the European Championship in 2007 and qualified for their first Olympics in 2008. They placed sixth in Beijing.
Belarus needs to be beat Greece on Wednesday to qualify for the quarterfinals.
"We have to put this game behind because we have a big game ahead of us," Belarus forward Tatyana Troina said.