Courtesy of USA Basketball
RIO DE JANEIRO -- The 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team (8-0) rolled to a sixth straight Olympic gold medal and remained undefeated at the 2016 Olympic Games with an impressive 101-72 win over Spain (6-2) on Saturday afternoon at Carioca Arena 1 in Rio de Janeiro.
UConn head coach Geno Auriemma and five former Husky greats brought home gold medals, including Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, who each earned their fourth Olympic gold medal Saturday, Maya Moore, Tina Charles and Breanna Stewart.
The U.S. women now have won eight gold medals in Olympic competition, own a 49-game Olympic win streak and an overall record of 66-3 since beginning play in 1976.
Serbia (4-4) beat France (4-4) 70-63 to win the bronze medal.
The game was close for the first 13 minutes before the USA began to pull away. Led by four players in double digit scoring, including Diana Taurasi with 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point and Lindsay Whalen with 17 points and six assists, the USA got 55 points off its bench, outrebounded Spain 51-28 and scored 23 points off of 17 Spanish turnovers.
“Obviously it was an incredible tournament for us,” said USA head coach Geno Auriemma. “From the very first game that we played to today, with very few exceptions I thought we played basketball at a really high level. I can’t say enough about our players. How quickly they’ve come together, how much they’ve been able to accomplish in less than a month that we’ve been together.
“It wasn’t as easy as sometimes it looked, these last two games especially with France and today against Spain,” Auriemma continued. “These are very good teams that we’re playing, and you could see that it wasn’t just a cake walk, that it was a struggle. Then finally, because of our depth and because of the experience on our team, we were able to separate ourselves. But the way we played, we respected our opponents and we respected the game itself, we earned a lot of respect from a lot of people around the world, and I’m really proud of that.”
The first quarter saw six tied scores and four lead changes before the USA closed with seven straight points to take a 21-17 lead into the second quarter. The first 10 minutes saw eight different U.S. players score and 14 points from non-starters.
“Tonight was a good game,” Whalen said. “Spain is a tough team. They really pushed us. We worked hard this month to get to this point, really our whole lives to get here. We’re glad we played well tonight.”
The run stretched into the second quarter when Sue Bird made a 3 at 9:36 to bring the score to 24-17. Spain responded and cut into the margin with its own 3-pointer at 6:54 to bring the score to 27-24. The USA held Spain scoreless for the next 3:37, however, while it tallied 10 points, including back-to-back 3s from Taurasi, to lead 37-24. Spain ended its drought at 3:17, but the USA again closed strong, outscoring Spain 12-6 to go ahead 49-32 at halftime.
Maya Moore scored nine of her 14 points in the second, while the U.S. defense buckled down in the second period to hold Spain to 5-of-18 shooting (.278) from the field. Moore also finished with six assists.
The USA was a red-hot 77.8 percent from the field (14-18 FGs) while it raced to 32 points in the third quarter, and it held Spain to 33.3 percent from the field (6-18 FGs) and just 17 points in the period to all but seal the win. Nine U.S. players put points on the board in the third, including two more 3s from Taurasi and six points from Elena Delle Donne, who tallied 10 in the game.
“You play these eight games and you want to win so bad,” Taurasi said. “The one thing we didn’t do is we didn’t take any possessions off. We played every single game like it's a gold medal game, and that’s why I think you see everyone is emotionally and physically spent right now. And that takes a certain character of team and individuals. I’ve never been a part of anything like this.”
Spain, which was playing in its fourth Olympic Games and its first medal game, outscored the USA 23-20 in the fourth quarter as the USA cruised to the 101-72 win.
Breanna Stewart, who finished with 11 points, pushed the USA into triple digits with the USA’s last field goal with 35 seconds remaining to make it 101-70.
“I’m just really happy,” said Sue Bird. “We just did something that’s pretty incredible. When you get together as a team and you know you only have a month to do something, it’s remarkable in so many ways that we were able to put this together and do it in a fashion that leaves no question marks. This put us on the map as arguable one of the best teams and we had fun doing it. Not only that, you can talk about the 100-point games or the margin of victory, but we played our butts off. We really did. I don’t think I’ve ever been around a group that’s this talented and also played this hard. Again, I’m just super happy. I’m proud of my teammates. I’m proud I’m part of this group. I’m happy for coach Auriemma and the rest of the staff, and it’s just a really fun day today.”
The USA’s assistant coaches were Doug Bruno, Cheryl Reeve and Dawn Staley.
In the U.S. women’s Olympic single-competition record book, Taurasi made a record 33 3-pointers, while as a team, the USA set records for field goals made (324), field goal percentage (.577), 3-pointers made (58), 3-pointers attempted (128), free throw percentage (.776) and assists (224).
In the U.S. women’s Olympic career record book, Catchings and Taurasi are now tied with Teresa Edwards and Lisa Leslie for games played (32), while Bird is second (30); and Catchings
In the U.S. women’s Olympic career record book: Taurasi now lists second for points scored (379), behind Lisa Leslie (488 points); Catchings lists third for rebounds (137), behind Leslie (241) and Katrina McClain (166).
Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles collected their third Olympic gold medals to join three-time Olympic gold medalists Katie Smith, Dawn Staley and Sheryl Swoopes.
Sue Bird, now with eight medals in major international competition ties with Edwards for the most medals in major international play. With one more gold than Edwards, however, she owns the most gold medals in U.S. history between the two events.
Catchings and Taurasi, move into a tie for second with Leslie, earning a total of seven medals each at international basketball’s top two events.
Brittney Griner becomes the 10 athlete to win Olympic gold, a FIBA World Championship title (2014), a WNBA crown (Phoenix Mercury, 2014) and an NCAA Championship (Baylor, 2012).