KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic – The U.S. women's basketball team has been running through the world championship, blowing past everyone.
As if the Americans weren't having an easy enough time, the road to an eighth title got a lot less difficult with losses by defending champion Australia and Russia. Not getting a chance to face the team that knocked them out of contention for a gold medal in the 2006 worlds didn't seem to bother the Americans.
"There's no sense of disappointment where revenge goes," said U.S. forward Tamika Catchings, who was on the team that lost to Russia four years ago. "Our goal is to win the gold medal. We'll have to face a lot of teams. We got one more tomorrow then we'll focus on Sunday after that."
The Americans, who routed South Korea 106-44 on Friday, will have to beat Spain in the semifinals Saturday to get another chance at gold.
With the loss by the two basketball powerhouses, this year's medal games will have a different feel. Since 1998, those three countries have collected all the world championship medals.
The U.S. victory was sandwiched between the two upsets. Watching Russia lose gave the Americans an extra awareness of the potential for an upset.
"We saw the end of the game and the group I was sitting with was like, 'We're not going to have that happen to us,'" said Maya Moore, who had 15 points. "Every team that is still here is playing for a reason."
Angel McCoughtry led the U.S. with 17 points, Candice Dupree added 12 and Swin Cash 11 for the undefeated U.S. (7-0), which had six players in double figures en route to one of the most lopsided victories in worlds history.
"We don't look at the score," McCoughtry said. "We just try to get better every game and string together good quarters."
The only suspense left in the fourth quarter was whether the United States would reach 100 points for the 16th time in world championship play and achieve its most lopsided victory.
Asjha Jones' jumper with 2:01 left gave the Americans 101 points, but they fell short of the record victory margin, 70 points over Senegal in 1990.
The U.S. will get a chance to redeem an early exit at the last worlds, when it lost in the semifinals to Russia.
"We're very happy with the win and we're really excited to be in the semis regardless of who we play," U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said. "It's going to be a great game."
The U.S. scored 19 of the first 25 points. Lim Yung Hui had 10 points to lead South Korea (3-4), which advanced to the quarterfinals by finishing fourth in its group.
"I thought the beginning of the game we knew we had a big advantage over them size-wise and quickness-wise," Auriemma said.
This was the first meeting between South Korea and the U.S. at the worlds since 2002. The two teams played in the quarterfinals of the 2008 Olympics and the Americans won 104-60.
Friday's matchup wasn't much different as the U.S. took it right at the Koreans.
"We felt at a lower level than our rival," South Korea center Kim Kwe Ryong said through a translator. "In this case it was a psychological aspect which was against us, which was very difficult for us."
Diana Taurasi got the U.S. rolling, scoring seven points during the opening run. Her three-point play made it 17-6 midway through the quarter. Auriemma put in his second unit and they kept up the torrid offense.
After Sin Jung-Ja hit a jumper to cut Korea's deficit to 11, the U.S. closed the quarter on a 10-3 run to go up by 19.
"We didn't want to start the game and not be ready 100 percent. The starting five was great, set a tone and everyone added to it," Auriemma said.
The U.S., which had won by an average of 33 points at the worlds, led by 26 at the half.
Unlike Wednesday's win over Australia in which the U.S. struggled in the second half, the Americans steamrolled Korea in the third quarter. They scored the first 10 points, including six by Dupree. Cash's three-point play made it 61-25. It only got worse for Korea as the U.S. scored six straight layups.
Moore's strong baseline drive for a three-point play to end the period gave the U.S. an 83-29 advantage.
"We talked about it in the locker room how we wanted to come out strong in the third quarter," Moore said.