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And I’m here!!!!

In Istanbul.

So what, you may ask, have ya been doin’?

Glad you asked! From my notes:

Pt. 1

Have arrived safe and sound in Istanbul. Seems appropriate that there’s a beautiful crescent moon in the sky…. FIBA basketball next!

Pt. 2

Notes from the first morning in Istanbul: Slight delay in my flight, and finding my ride to the hotel took a hot moment, but a gentleman from FIBA-Turkey was kind enough to let me us his phone and, voila, I was on my way into the city.

20 million in Istanbul? Who knew! Took the roundabout way because of traffic. I kept on trying to identify parallel cities/experiences. Athens with its short buildings, Abu Dhabi with its waterfront walkway, and then NYs East Village/Soho with its cobblestone streets and side-by-side-by-side restaurants bidding for your attention. Cats, kittens, dogs… yummy dinner with waiters who can laugh and tease in English. Glad to be with my friend Joan.

Staying in a lovely small hotel 3 minutes from the Blue Mosque... Awaiting partaking of a hotel breakfast, then touristing, then basketball in the evening. The US ought to demolish Angola (on NBAtv). No idea how much writing I’ll do…. enough to “earn my keep,” but not so much to interfere with some indulgence within the City. Visiting rug dealers recommended by the Turkish friends of one of the UConn fans – a many-time traveller to the country. Who knows if I find what I’m looking for, but it’ll be a lovely adventure.

Pt. 3

Day 1 in Istanbul began with a very early ezan (call to prayer), which was no surprise, since we ARE around the corner from the Blue Mosque. Roomie and fellow UConn fan then enjoyed the Hotel Seraglio’s lovely breakfast. We then walked up past the Mosque with the intention of joining to other UConn fan, Ken & Eric, and visit the Hagia Sophia. We did join them, but the line into the Sophia was looooong (it had been closed the day before) so we opted for a two and a half hour boat ride up and down the Bosphorus. 

About two hundred wanna-be-Bosphorus-Boaters quick-stepped after our two guides, down hills, across cobblestoned streets and in front of annoyed taxis. Clearly everyone had gotten the note “stay in front so when you get the boat you can get a good seat.” There was a slight “Running with Bulls” flavor to the proceedings that made you feel if you stumbled, that was it…you were going to be smooshed like Turkish Delight. When we reach the boat, the crowd got a little “Crowding the Store Doors on Black Friday”-esque. Three of the four of us made it onto the boat, but Joan got trapped ashore. A quick “paging Eric, exit the boat,” on the mic got us all reunited and, lucky us, we were first about the second tour boat.

Sat next to a well-traveled Southwest Airlines stewardess and mapped our way between Istanbul-Europe and Istanbul Asia. Visual echoes of Seattle, San Francisco and the Brooklyn ship yards. Everywhere you looked, it seemed someone had a line in the water fishing. Huge tankers and boats that looked like they were related to the mini-cooper… mini-motorboats. Perfectly beautiful day to be on the water.

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Returned for a brief recovery period at the hotel, and now we are all back together to grab some food before the US v. Angola game. Wheeeee!!

BTW – did attend the Angola v. U.S. game and tweeted it (if you want to re-versed tweet-read it.)

Speaking of the game, guess who I met at the arena? My FIBA friend from the airport! Had a great chat with him and his friends – doctor, architect and engineer wannabes – all volunteering for the event.

Oh, yeah, the game:

From Doug: U.S. women cruise past Angola

 Brittney Griner was a little surprised.

Moments after the U.S. had just beaten Angola in the most lopsided victory in team history at the world championship, the players from the African nation wanted to take photos with the Americans.

From USA Basketball: USA Wraps Up Preliminary Round With Record-Setting 119-44 Rout Of Angola

The 75-point win was the USA women’s largest margin of victory in FIBA World Championship play, and it tied for the most points scored by a U.S. team in a World Championship. Further, the USA’s 8-of-13 performance from 3-point, helped along by 3-of-4 shooting from Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx), who finished with 16 points, was a USA World Championship record for 3-point percentage (.615). The team also tied the assists record with 32 dimes, led by six from Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx). Additionally, Breanna Stewart(University of Connecticut), who had nine points and six rebounds, set a U.S. World Championship record by shooting 7-of-7 from the free throw line.

Thoughts on the quarterfinals, where the USA will play the winner of tomorrow’s France-Brazil game:

GA: We know France; we just played them recently. I really haven’t seen Brazil much. Our coaches have gone out to see them. Either way, when you get to this point, into the quarterfinals, you get to the medal rounds, it’s not like you can afford to lose a game, you can’t afford to play poorly. You’re looking at one bad night and you go home. So, our players understand that and whoever we play, whether it’s France or Brazil, we’ll be ready.

so twiddling my thumbs… so:

Don’t get fooled by the score, Serbia brought it against the US… and then some.

From Mechelle (who, I think, is writing from the mid-west?): Usual suspects step up for Team USA – Stars from Mercury, Lynx step up as USA Basketball clinches Group D’s top seed

The Americans’ 94-74 victory essentially guarantees them a flawless record in Group D play, as they go against far-overmatched Angola in the third game Tuesday (ESPN3, 2:30 p.m. ET). The toughest test in group play was expected to be Serbia, and that proved to be the case. It took until the fourth quarter for the U.S. team to put away the win, and it was the Mercury-Lynx combination that led the way in preventing the upset.

Looks like Doug’s long form game articles can be found directly on the AP site: US Women Hold Off Serbia 94-74

With Serbia hanging around midway through the fourth quarter, Diana Taurasi and the U.S. women’s basketball team stepped up their play to finally pull away.

Taurasi scored 13 of her 20 points in the final period and the Americans beat Serbia 94-74 on Sunday in the world championship to clinch the top seed in Group D.

“It was a tough game,” Taurasi said. “Every possession was a battle. They made us work on defense. There are some things we probably got to clean up. These games are good for us. This team hasn’t been together very long. In the two weeks that we’ve been together, we’ve been battle-tested a couple of times, which in the long run will only help us.”

Some UConn fans have made the trip, and give their inside the stands report.

USA Basketball is on YouTube:

They’re also online: USA Battles To 94-74 Win Over Serbia

The 2014 USA Basketball Women’s World Championship Team (2-0) fought off a resilient Serbia (1-1) team that was within six points at the start of the fourth quarter before the USA pulled away for a 94-74 win in the 2014 FIBA World Championship on Sunday night at Abdi Ipekci Arena in Istanbul, Turkey.

From their fabulous “additional quotes” section:

Auriemma, on tonight’s game being so close through three quarters:

I think sometimes on the outside, people think you just show up, roll the ball out and we have 25 points right away. It doesn’t work that way. These are national teams. They have players that are good. They know how to make shots, they know how to play. They’re experienced. They play well together. So, it takes us time because this is our training camp. These games are kind of like our training camp. These last five or six games we played in Paris and here.

That’s a really, really good team that plays with a lot of heart, that plays with a lot of passion. I’m not surprised that the game was difficult. But, we have some amazing players on our team that when the game is to be won, they make winning plays.

This kid OH-gwu-MOO-kay is writing a blog:

From FIBA:

Canadian prospects benefit from learning curve

Veteran guard Kim Gaucher believes the future of the Canada backcourt is in safe hands despite suffering  first loss at the FIBA World Championship for Women.

Indeed Gaucher is hugely excited about what could follow, such is the current glut of emerging talent.

‘Nothing complicated, simple old school’ basketball keeps Aussies going

 Erin Phillips has been the live-wire of the Australian Opals squad, especially in the absence of Lauren Jackson and Liz Cambage.

The Phoenix Mercury shooting guard was once again at the vanguard of another Australian win on Sunday – the second in as many games – assuring the team of place in the next round.

“The way we are playing is very good. There’s a lot of positive energy,” said the 29-year-old, who had four points, five rebounds and handed out a game-high seven assists.

Leuchanka wanted to go down fighting rather than be found want of trying

 Belarus needed back-to-back three-pointers inside the final 30 seconds of their game against fiesty Cuba to cap a 12-0 run in the last three minutes to pull off a Houdini-esque 70-69 win on Sunday at the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women.

Leader Yelena Leuchanka had a beast of game with 20 points and a tournament-high 18 rebounds and played a expectedly pivotal role in that final outburst before Nadzeya Drozd and Katsiaryna Snytsina came up with the two makes from beyond the arc to ensure the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Women Semi-Finalists will advance from the Group Phase.

Turkey, USA seal Quarter-Final spots on Day 2

Turkey and the United States won for the second day in a row at the FIBA World Championship for Women to clinch first place in their respective groups and spots in the Quarter-Finals.

Spain and the Czech Republic also prevailed to set up a battle for Group A supremacy, and both Australia and Belarus won their games to set up a Group C showdown for first.

Vesela finds that loving feeling

Jana Vesela is simply loving being back in a Czech Republic vest and helping her nation post a flying start to the FIBA World Championship for Women.

The veteran forward had a very different experience last year, when her first outing at EuroBasket Women 2013 ended in tears as she was carried off to hospital in agony.

Shao Ting stands tall leading China’s transition

 Shao Ting indeed is the perfect representation of the transition phase in Chinese women’s basketball.

Shao Ting had not figured in any of the many youth national teams that China developed and was almost a nobody until a sterling performance in her maiden WCBA season with the Beijing Great Wall paved the way for her inclusion in Maher’s ‘clean up’ mission.

so thanks to the parental units who shared this:

Gotta go pack and

finish some stuff at work. But, before I go…

Here are a couple of write-ups on the US V China game. As per usual with the recent Auriemma teams, the US started slowly and China played fearlessly. Eventually, legs & stamina and better offensive flow won out.

USA Opens FIBA World Championship With 87-56 Win Over China

“It’s the kind of game that you would hope to have as the first game of the tournament, where you have to play really well against China defensively because they do a lot of good stuff on the offensive end,” said USA head coach Geno Auriemma (University of Connecticut). “And we didn’t make any shots in the first half at all. I think in one possession we had six shots at the basket, and five of them were inside a foot-and-a-half, two feet. So, when we went in at halftime we talked about it, and then stuff started going in. So, it was good that we started the game in the first half under a little bit of duress and we finished the game on a high, so that’s great going into tomorrow against another really good team in Serbia.”

From Mechelle – Team USA Is More Than Just OK  – They weren’t flawless, but the Americans still dominated China in opener

The day before the United States faced China in the teams’ opener at the FIBA World Championship for Women, the Americans did their best to explain why — regardless of whether they really thought so — they might face some difficulties.

They said the Chinese were going to play hard, they would execute well, they would be persistent, they had size on the perimeter and they were not going to act intimidated.

But the best quote the American side had about Saturday’s game came from Angel McCoughtry, thanks to her simple honesty: “I think we’ll be OK against China.”

From Lee at Full Court: Griner throws down historic first Women’s World Championship dunk while leading U.S. to 87-56 win over China

 She’s arrived.

Brittney Griner may have been late to the Team USA party, but on Saturday’s opening day of the 2014 FIBA World Basketball Championship for Women at Abdi Ipekci Arena in Istanbul, Turkey, she finally arrived on the world basketball scene in her first major international competition. It was quite a debut!

From Nick Z: Brittney Griner leads U.S. past early China test in Worlds opener

Favorite moment? The Dunk? The announcers “Ack SENT on the wrong syLAble of NO’s name? Augustus’ ridiculous move? No. Maya’s dance (?) move in REACTION to Augustus’ play. Too funny.

WILL be back for US v. Serbia on NBATV & ESPN streaming (why isn’t there a 3/4 mode for the video display???). Until then, here be some notes from the hard-working folks at USA Basketball:

Making an historic first appearance at the FIBA World Championship, Serbia in its opening game was up 22-10 over Angola after the first quarter, and continued to roll to a 102-42 victory on Sept. 27 in Istanbul.

All 12 players scored for Serbia, led by 16 from Jelena Milovanovic (8-13 FGs) and 15 points from Dajana Butulija (6-11 FGs, 2-4 3pt FGs). Serbia scored 29 points off of 27 Angolan turnovers, outscored Angola 43-12 off the bench and outrebounded Angola 40-25.

“We haven’t seen much of them,” said USA head coach Geno Auriemma. “We didn’t see them in the Czech Republic or London. But, I had seen them when we were scouting the European Championship. They’re really tough. They’re really aggressive. They put a lot of pres- sure on you with their defense. They play an aggressive kind of offense, where they’re attacking you all the time. It’s a country that has a tremendous culture of basketball.”

USA vs. Serbia: All-Time Record

USA Basketball women are 1-0 all-time against Serbia, having played the nation once at the 2009 World University Games preliminary round.

The USA’s team featured current U.S. members Tina Charles and Maya Moore.

After a first-quarter fight from Serbia, which was host- ing the 2009 WUGs in Belgrade, the USA buckled down on defense and held its opponent to just 36.7 shooting from the field overall to secure a 84-50 win and Group A’s No. 1 seed headed into the second round. Charles, who shot 8-of-10 from the field, led the USA with 17 points.

The USA went on to capture gold with a 7-0 mark, while host Serbia finished in 11th place with a 3-4 record.

Join the twit-versation at: https://twitter.com/usabasketball

There are other games going on, btw, so check out http://www.fiba.com/turkey2014 for news. Here’s something on the Canadians.

Now I MUST go to work and start packing!!!!

P.S. And yes, we know that ESPN has screwed up and not uploaded the archive of the US game (other games, yes.) I know annoyed UConn fans are doing everything they can to ensure that ESPN is on the problem, weekend or not!

And the crowd goes wild!

Turkey's Işıl Alben after her game-winner over France

Turkey’s Işıl Alben after her game-winner over France

And I kid… packing? I don’t leave until midnight on Sunday. I have PLENTY of time… ha. Besides, Turkey v. France is on! http://espn.go.com/watchespn/index?id=1964013

Some notes to get me ready for the US game:

CHINA

FIBA world ranking: 8.
How China qualified: 2013 FIBA Asia Championship bronze medalist (4-3).
World Championship appearances: 8 (1983, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010).
World Championship overall record: 34-39 (.466). World Championship medals: 1 silver medal (1994), 1 bronze medal (1983).
Key players in 2013 FIBA Asia Championship: Nan Chen (12.7 ppg., 4.1 rpg.), Song Gao (13.7 ppg., 6.6 rpg.), Wen Lu (9.9 ppg., 2.9 rpg.)
USA vs. China at the World Championship: 4-0.
2012 Olympic finish: 6th place (3-3).

The team features just two athletes from China’s 2012 Olympic squad, which finished in sixth place with a 3-3 record. With several top veterans retiring, China’s team is young, but not without experience as eight of their players helped China capture the bronze medal at the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship to qualify for this year’s event.

China is being coached by international veteran Tom Maher, who coached Australia to its first Olympic medal with a bronze at the Atlanta Olympics and headed up Australia’s silver-medal finish in Sydney. Following that, he coached New Zealand to its best Olympic finish — eighth place — in Athens, headed up China’s fourth-place finish in Beijing, was hired to coach Great Britain in 2012 and then was rehired by China to lead its national team through the Rio Games. He also served a stint as head coach of the Washington Mystics in 2001.

Found Paul!

Dunno why it didn’t come up before, but: Recent events spice things up in Istanbul

Having made a strong case for Ankara being my preferred location for the Group Phase of the FIBA World Championship for Women, events over the weekend narrowed the gap.

Unfortunately it was bad news for Australia which potentially threw things open in Group C in Istanbul as they lost Liz Cambage to injury at the Paris tournament – something which is a crushing blow for the Opals and neutrals like myself.

The prospect of seeing a breath-taking talent like Cambage missing from the world stage for four years is a big blow for women’s basketball and, in the short term, for this competition. While Australia beat France without her as Marianna Tolo stepped up in the paint, this vital absence (along with Lauren Jackson) arguably gives more hope to Belarus and Cuba.

And, from FIBAEUROPE.com: Problems in the Paint Worry Belarus

Belarus face a tough task in repeating their superb run to the semi-finals of the FIBA World Championship for Women when they step out in Istanbul next week. 

It’s been an intense few years of distinct peaks and troughs for the national team and just when they had seemed to be back on an upward curve in the wake of a creditable fifth-place finish at EuroBasket Women 2013, they are now in danger of hitting another bump in the road.

Key absences are likely to seriously threaten their prospects of making another big splash on the global stage and that means expectations have to be re-aligned.

Euro Guns Ready to Fire on the World Stage

Six European teams are preparing to launch an assault on the FIBA World Championship for Women when the action tips-off in Ankara and Istanbul this weekend. 

And, there will be a real blockbuster for fans to enjoy in the capital as the host nation go up against fellow heavyweights France in Group B.

This will be a hugely important game for both teams, who know a victory will get them onto the front foot and stave off pressure – something particularly important for host nation Turkey.

A huge crowd is expected to support the local favourites, who will be looking to avenge their semi-final loss against Les Bleues at EuroBasket Women last summer.

Torrens Relishing her Turkish Return:

EuroLeague Women champion Alba Torrens is relishing a return to Turkey with the national team as Spain prepare to aim for successive podium finishes at the FIBA World Championship for Women

The Spanish ace famously led Galatasaray odeabank to their first EuroLeague Women title last season, as well as a first Turkish League Championship in more than a decade to cement herself as a legend with the TKBL juggernauts.

Having since made the switch to UMMC Ekaterinburg, Torrens is looking forward to heading back to the country she lived in recently.

“At the FIBA World Championship I’m going to play in front of Turkish fans again and I’m really excited about it,” she declared.

Sigh of Relief for Kulichova and Czechs:

When experienced Czech center Petra Kulichova went down in the final quarter of their last preparation game against USA, it looked like her FIBA World Championship for Women prospects were over. 

However, to the considerable relief of the 30-year-old, her team-mates and head coach, Lubor Blazek, the ankle injury she sustained was not as serious as first thought.

It had looked so bad when it happened that it seemed inevitable she would miss out.  Diana Taurasi was one of the first players to offer verbal support and a speedy recovery to Kulichova as she sat glumly waiting for the game to finish and for a full medical assessment to be undertaken.

Mandic Flies Flag for Rising Stars

When asked to name a rising star of the women’s game from Serbia, you could be forgiven for thinking immediately of Aleksandra Crvendakic or Dragana Stankovic.

After all, the duo have had standout careers at youth level and are preparing to play together for UE Sopron in EuroCup Women this season.

Or, you might throw Aleksandra Stanacev into the equation. A playmaker who is diminutive in physical stature, but plays with a big heart and with just as much talent – something that recently earned her a move to Liga Femenina.

However Sanja Mandic is now the name on everbody’s lips after the teenager was named on the Serbia senior roster for the FIBA World Championship for Women which tips-off on Saturday.

If you’re a twitter person, AP Doug’s at @DougFeinberg and Paul’s at @basketmedia365.

On paper, this looks like game of opening day…. v – going to be almost 10,000 fans.Bring the NOISE!

And look for the hashtag #Turkey2014.