Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — There was nothing unusual about the U.S. Women’s basketball team’s performance on Sunday morning.
It was just a repeat of the first four games in the 2016 Olympics.
The United States took on China in the final game of group play, and once again dominated. After holding China to just 26 first-half points, the United States cruised to a 105-62 win to remain undefeated in the tournament.
“This is game five, and we try to use these games to try to build some momentum moving forward,” said head coach Geno Auriemma. “This team’s played a total of nine games together up to now. So, each and every one we’ve gotten a little bit better at something. And we knew kind of what we wanted to do today, and I think in every single area that we had marked down that we wanted to get accomplished, we got accomplished today.”
The United States jumped up to a 32-9 lead in the first quarter, thanks to 12 points from a seemingly unstoppable Tina Charles. China’s offense continued to struggle in the second quarter, too, thanks to a United States defense that held the Chinese to just 17 points.
Heading into the locker room, the United States had amassed a 60-26 lead.
The United States continued its rout in the second half, but not by as large of a margin. They outscored China by just four points in the third quarter, and only five points in the fourth quarter. It didn’t matter, though. The United States cruised through the second half to win 105-62, going a perfect 5-0 in group play.
“I think all tournament we’ve been doing a great job on the defensive end, picking up the intensity,” said Tina Charles. “In the second half, you don’t want to get complacent. You still want to have that sense of urgency like you do when the score is 0-0.”
It was Charles and Brittney Griner, though, who dominated for the United States offensively. Charles, who had 12 first-half points, finished the game with 18 points. Griner, who couldn’t be contained in the post, also finished with a double-double 18 points and 13 rebounds. Charles missed just three shots, going 9-of-13 from the field, while Griner went 9-of-11.
Sun Mengran led China with 16 points. Lu Wen also finished in double-figures for China, grabbing 14 points and four rebounds.
It was their team play, though, that held the lead. The United States had 40 total assists in the game, a team record, led by eight from forward Maya Moore. They shot more than 62 percent from the field as a team, and held China to just 33.8 percent shooting — most of which came in the second half.
“We were really determined after playing so well in the first half to continue that pace, starting the second half,” Maya Moore said on breaking the team’s assist record. “Our first six, seven baskets were assisted, and we just continued on that pace. It’s just a really fun atmosphere when we’re all moving the ball like that. To be part of history like that is really special, especially for this team because we enjoy it so much.”
With their win, the United States finished undefeated in Group B, and will take the top seed from the group. They will take on Japan in the first round of tournament play on Tuesday.
“In some ways, the mindset stays the same in that we’re just going to use our practice sessions, our shoot around sessions to get better and to continue working on ourselves,” said Sue Bird. “At the same time, there has to be a shift, because you can’t make mistakes now. You have to be ready every single game and every team knows that. They’re going to be playing with their backs to the wall as well, and we have to be prepared for that.”