Originally written on Fox Olympics  |  Last updated 7/21/12
Sylvia Fowles scored 15 points and Candace Parker added 14 to lead a balanced U.S. offense in the Americans' 109-55 win over Croatia in an exhibition game Saturday. The contest marked the return of Sue Bird to the team. She left the women's basketball squad Sunday after the death of her stepfather Dennis and missed the team's exhibition wins over Brazil and Britain. Bird got to Istanbul early Saturday morning, but didn't look jet-lagged at all. She didn't start, but entered the game four minutes in. Her first play was a nifty no-look pass to Tamika Catchings, but she couldn't convert the shot. Bird then hit a 3-pointer a few minutes later as the U.S. went on a 24-3 run to take a 38-13 lead at the end of the first quarter. She finished with eight points and five assists in 19 minutes. With the two-time Olympic point guard back, the offense was clicking. The Americans overwhelmed Croatia, building a 62-23 halftime advantage in which they shot 57 percent from the field. All 12 of the U.S. players had scored by the half. The U.S. extended the lead to 57 in the second half and crossed the 100-point plateau midway through the fourth quarter on Seimone Augustus' jumper from the wing. The Americans finished the game shooting 52 percent from the floor. These two teams will play each other in the Olympic opener on July 28. Before that game, the U.S. will play Turkey on Sunday in its final exhibition game. The Americans will then train for two more days in Istanbul before heading to London. Playing in Turkey served as a bit of a homecoming for six of the U.S. players, who compete in the country during the winter. Augustus, Tina Charles, Fowles and Catchings have played for Galatasaray while Angel McCoughtry suited up for rival Fenerbahce. Diana Taurasi has played for both teams. Ana Lelas scored 14 points and Sandra Mandir added 13 to lead Croatia, which qualified for the Olympics by winning its quarterfinal game at the last Olympic qualifying tournament. The four quarterfinal winners at that tournament automatically qualified for London. Canada earned the final bid by winning the consolation bracket.
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