The U.S. had little trouble putting away the Australian Opals 79-55 in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Summer Olympics on Wednesday. The win marked 53 straight victories from the USA in Olympic competition dating from the
1992 bronze medal game.
“I thought we came out and played inspired basketball on both sides of the ball,” USA head coach Dawn Staley said. “We played with the incredible desire to advance. And it was just contagious. A lot of times in this tournament, you build the lead and you see a team fight back and get into the game. But I just thought our team was really focused on just keeping the heat on Australia not let them back in the game. And I was truly proud of our effort, and just truly proud of the performance. Hopefully it leads us to continuing to play our best basketball on Friday.”
Led by Breanna Stewart, Team USA began a dominant performance early in the first quarter. Stewart put up seven points within the first five minutes and was the catalyst in a 17-0 run that had the U.S. finish the quarter with a 26-12 advantage.
The Opals performed better in the second quarter with a valiant effort spurred by point guard Leilani Mitchell and help from young phenom forward Ezi Magbegor. Still, it was not enough to make significant inroads against a bigger, taller, and all-around more talented U.S. squad.
Stewart reached 20 points with 1:07 left in the second quarter, the only player at that point in double figures. At the half, the U.S. enjoyed a 48-27 lead. The Aussies shot 31% (10-32) from the field compared to 55% (17-31) by the USA in the first twenty minutes.
Australia’s attempts at a comeback in the second half were futile as other players stepped up to the plate for the USA, including A’ja Wilson, Brittney Griner, and Chelsea Gray. The U.S. benefitted from the laser-like precision of Gray’s passes as she finished the game with a team-high eight assists to go along with seven points.
Gotta be ready for them Chelsea Gray passes to cash in! #USA
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“I think my teammates know that a pass may be coming at any moment,” Gray said about her ability to find open players and make dazzling passes. “And so they’re ready for it, and it’s just a matter of me executing the play at the right time….So it’s a give and take.”
She also commented on the progression and mindset of the U.S. team in light of the dominating performance against the Opals.
“I think you see improvements each game,” Gray said. “We’re able to get practice time. We’re able to prepare, and then go on to the next game. So, it’s kind of a laser focus. Each game is important. We don’t want to look too far ahead and not too much in the past but to stay in the moment and stay present and do what we have to do to win that game, and the rest will take care of itself. So that’s kind of been our mindset.”
The USA outpaced Australia 20-12 in the third quarter and 16-11 in the last period.
Stewart led her team with 23 points plus five rebounds. Griner added 15 points plus eight rebounds, and Wilson contributed 10 points plus four rebounds.
Mitchell finished with 14 points and six assists for the Aussies. Cayla George was the only other Opal in double figures with 11 plus seven rebounds.
The Aussies head home without a medal. The 55 points was Australia’s lowest Olympic score in 21 years according to Baskteball Australia.
“We’re obviously disappointed with the result,” Opals head coach Sandy Brondello said. “We faced a very focused and aggressive USA team today and found it really hard to score or be able to execute the way we wanted to.”
The U.S. continues play in the semifinals, facing Serbia August 5 at 9:40 p.m. PT. The Serbs defeated China 77-70 to earn a place in the semifinals.
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