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United States wins over Australia in exhibition game

United States routed Australia 96-64 on Sunday in an exhibition game.

With the Phoenix Mercury facing the Detroit Shock in the decisive game of the WNBA finals later Sunday, both teams had depleted rosters. American stars Diana Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter, Cheryl Ford, Swin Cash, Katie Smith and Deanna Nolan weren't available.

Taurasi, Pondexter, Cash and Smith are expected to join the team before Wednesday's exhibition game against Australia in Connecticut. Ford and Nolan have been battling injuries. They will all have had little time to play with the team before heading to Valdivia, Chile, for the FIBA Americas tournament at the end of the month, where the U.S. hopes to secure a bid for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

It's the second season in a row that the WNBA finals ended right before an Olympic qualifier. Last year, some of the U.S. team's players got off the plane right before the world championships in Brazil. The Americans finished third after losing to Russia in the semifinals, forcing the U.S. to have to qualify in Chile.

"It's really difficult to not have training time with our team," coach Anne Donovan said. "We get bits and pieces, but to get the entire nucleus together, we just haven't had that benefit."

World champion Australia was also missing key players for the exhibition game as Penny Taylor and Belinda Snell were playing for the Mercury. WNBA most valuable player Lauren Jackson was back in Australia. With their world title, the Aussies have already earned a berth in Beijing.

Natalie Porter led the Aussies with 13.

Despite not having played together for that long, the U.S. looked good at times, reeling off a 7-0 run to start the second quarter and a 11-3 spurt to begin the fourth. Wiggins scored eight points in that run, including two 3-pointers.

The U.S. built a 14-point halftime lead behind the strong play of Courtney Paris. She had eight points in the first half, including six of the first nine in the second quarter, as the Americans took a 27-11 lead. Australia could get no closer than 12 the rest of the game.

The USA will name its 12-player roster for the Olympic qualifying tournament in Chile by Sept. 20.

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