By Larry Fine
LONDON (Reuters) - The powerful U.S. women's basketball team, riding a 33-game winning streak, survived a scare from Croatia before surging in the fourth quarter for an 81-56 win on the opening day of the Olympic tournament on Saturday.
Croatia, making their first appearance in Olympic women's basketball, used a 14-0 second quarter run to push past the Americans and battled them all the way before the U.S. team shifted into high gear.
Winners of the last four Olympic titles, the U.S. led by just three points at intermission and by 53-47 going into the final quarter before pulling away.
The balanced U.S. attack was led by Tina Charles with 14 points, with Angel McCoughtry scoring 13, Candace Parker 11 and Tamika Catchings adding 10 as the winners made the most of their deep squad to eventually wear down the upstarts.
Croatia relied on the one-two punch of Jelena Ivezic from the outside and Marija Vrsaljko inside. Ivezic scored 22 points, including three three-pointers in the second quarter, and Vrsaljko had 19.
Russia, China and Turkey were also winners.
EuroBasket champions Russia closed with an 18-3 run to overtake Canada 58-53; Turkey overwhelmed Angola 72-50 and China claimed a 66-57 victory over the Czech Republic.
(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)