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US women's basketball back in medal round

Aug. 19, 2008, 12:57 p.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) The U.S. women's basketball team doesn't need any extra motivation to try and win its fourth straight Olympic gold medal.

It doesn't matter that they lost to their semifinal opponent Russia in the 2006 world championship. Nor that American-born and naturalized Russian Becky Hammon is on the other team.

They just have one goal in mind - coming home with another gold medal.

"We're two wins away," said U.S. guard Kara Lawson after a 106-60 victory over South Korea on Tuesday night. "The thing that pops into everyone's mind when you say Russia is that the last time we played them they denied the U.S. a chance to play for a gold medal in the 2006 world championships.

"However, when you're that close, whoever they put in front of you, you're excited to play against."

The Americans made it to the medal round for the sixth straight Olympics. The only time they didn't qualify for the semis in the history of women's Olympic basketball was in 1980, when the U.S. boycotted the Moscow Games.

So far they've run through their first six opponents at the Beijing Games in dominant fashion, winning by an average of 43 points. However they haven't played a team as good as Russia, which has only lost to Australia at the 2008 Olympics.

The two teams met in the FIBA Diamond Ball tournament in the beginning of August and the U.S. rolled to a 93-58 win.

"That game means nothing," U.S. co-captain Katie Smith said. "Russia is a talented team, they are going to come ready to play."

The world championship loss doesn't mean much either since this is a different U.S. team with the additions of 6-foot-5 post players Lisa Leslie and Sylvia Fowles.

On Tuesday, Fowles was a dominant force for the U.S. in the win over South Korea. She scored 26 points and added 14 rebounds to help the Americans outscore their opponents 66-28 in the paint and outrebound them 50-24.

"We really wanted to make a conscious effort to go inside," Smith said. "They couldn't matchup with our size."

About the only thing that didn't go the 6-foot-5 Fowles' way was on a 2-on-1 fast break when Smith gave her the ball too late. Fowles swooping down the middle had visions of throwing down the first dunk in Olympics history.

"Yeah I definitely thought about it," said Fowles with her eyes lighting up. "I should have called for it earlier. There is always next game."

That game will be against Russia, which trailed Spain by 18 points in the first half before rallying for an 84-65 victory.

"We've got confidence against that team (Russia), I think we match up well with Russia," U.S. coach Anne Donovan said.

It's going to take a lot for Russia to hand the U.S. it's first loss in the Olympics.

"Our chances? We always have a chance, but it's a long shot," said Hammon, who had 17 points in Russia's win against Spain. "They're the best team in the world and I think they've proven it for the last month since they've been together. In order for us to compete we'll have to play flawlessly, we'll have to play a perfect game."