Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — By the start of the second half against Serbia, four-time Olympian, three-time WNBA champion and MVP, Diana Taurasi, had already tied a United States Olympic record — her own in fact — of consecutive threes during a single game.
During the third quarter, she made her sixth three-pointer, falling short of the overall Olympic record of eight, but setting a new record for the US. Taurasi was on fire, leading the U.S. Women’s National Team with 25 points.
“Usually, Diana doesn’t assert herself like she has in the first three games. She’s usually waiting for the game to come to her, get everybody else involved. And these first three games of the tournament, she’s just come out and taken over right from the beginning,” U.S. head coach Geno Auriemma said.
Team USA ended Wednesday's game with a well-deserved 110-84 blowout win. No team has been more dominant at the Olympics over the past 20 years than the U.S. women's team. Their destruction of yet another team in Rio extends their winning streak to 44 games in the Olympics.
Taurasi’s ongoing effort offensively not only led her to have one of the best games of her career, but it also strengthened her teammates’ capabilities. Five U.S. players earned double figures for the women’s team, which really came together defensively by the end of the match up.
Team USA was off to a good start, staying on top for the majority of the first quarter. But as time went on, their pace dwindled, and Serbia rallied off of the U.S. women’s slack.
Serbia put up a constant fight and came back with eight unanswered points, making it a one-point game midway through the first. In just three minutes, Serbia connected on four three-pointers, revealing Team USA’s weakness on perimeter defense.
“Because they’re [Serbia] so good off the dribble, they don’t play with a center, they don’t play with anybody that plays in the lane, so they force you to play a perimeter game. And they’re really good at that. You don’t win the European championship like they just did (last summer) by accident,” Auriemma said.
The early drama was quickly ended, as three-time gold medalist Taurasi showed no sign of fatigue at the age of 34. She exhibited a lot of energy for Team USA and was the focal point of the offense.
She came up with big time shots from deep right when they were needed the most. Taurasi netted four three-pointers by the end of the first, putting the U.S. up by nine and allowing them to focus on tightening up on defense.
“There are still things we have to get better at. When you play against a team like Serbia, the European champions, they make you work,” Taurasi said. “They make you look ugly sometimes. But overall we did a pretty job of keeping our composure and doing the things we want to do.”
Perhaps one of Taurasi’s best qualities is her selflessness and teamwork when she plays with the rest of the women on Team USA. She is a superstar that clearly does not struggle when it comes to shooting beyond the arc, but she also gives so much to the other 12 elite players on her team.
Each of those talented women are given the chance to bring their talent to the court and perform under head coach Geno Auriemma.
Team USA took a 56-34 lead into the half. This is the third game in which things were over quickly. The method to Auriemma’s madness, is the constant rotation of some fresh legs.
Once the U.S. had the game in the bag, we saw less of Taurasi and more of Tina Charles, Breanna Stewart, and Angel McCoughtry who came through and put up 11 points in the second half.
“Dee (Diana) broke a record today. That really helped us get over the hump. And the group that came off the bench came in and brought some energy, so I think that really helped tonight, break that lead away,” McCoughtry said.
Overall, the U.S. women shot 54% from the field and held to 38.1% in three-pointers. They racked up 20 turnovers, 46 rebounds, 30 assists and 10 blocks. Serbia gave the U.S fits in the first half with their press, which contributed to the high amount of turnovers this game.
“You just keep looking forward to the next game, our next opponent, how can we get better as a group, as a team. That’s the way we look at it in our locker room,” Taurasi said.”
Team USA still has two preliminary games left to play in Rio and faces Canada next on Friday.