Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — Confidence is key. And looking at team USA’s women’s basketball legacy, you know they're confident. With a history of dominating the competition and a large pool of strong talent to choose from, USA women’s basketball has continued to steal the spotlight on the international stage; and the storyline was no different on Sunday against China.
The Americans wrapped up the preliminary rounds with a 105-62 win over China and eliminating the Chinese from advancing to the quarterfinals.
The U.S. dominated China from the start, only allowing China to score four baskets for nine points in the first quarter. Center Tina Charles was able to outscore the Chinese by herself in the first quarter, knocking down a quick 12 points.
Team USA head coach Geno Auriemma said he was amused by Charles’ first quarter performance.
“That first 15 minutes it was Tina versus China,” said Auriemma. “She was unbelievable. I don’t know how many ways she scored in the first half. She was really fun to watch.”
Although team USA’s offense started slightly rocky — missing easy baskets from the field — the U.S. was quick to answer missed opportunities with offensive rebounds and second-attempt baskets.
At the end of the first half, team USA led 60-26. Charles and center Brittney Griner dominated the paint for the U.S. and scored 24 of the team’s 60 points.
Charles, who already has an Olympic gold medal for the 2012 London Olympics, is actively pursuing another gold, while Griner is actively seeking her first Olympic gold after making her Olympic debut against Senegal on Aug. 7.
Griner — who has a little less experience on the international stage, but is just as talented nonetheless — has consistently shown improvement throughout pool play and is building her confidence.
Against China, Griner was more active than recent Olympic games and scored the only double-double of the game with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Griner grinded on the defensive end of the court, pulling down 10 defensive rebounds.
She said defense was something the team focused on for today’s game.
“We started off the game really well on the defensive end, getting stops and running out in transition,” said Griner. “That was a big part of our game today — getting boards, getting deflections and kicking it up the floor for easy baskets.”
Coach Auriemma said he believes Griner is getting more comfortable with international play, but she still hasn’t really been challenged yet.
“Other than Australia, there really aren’t a lot of teams in this tournament that have a big, dominant center who likes to play in the lane. [Griner] can also shoot jump shots,” Auriemma said. “So, a lot of times Brittney doesn’t have anybody to guard, except somebody smaller and quicker. So she’s done a pretty good job of affecting shots defensively and changing some shots.”
She worked her magic in the paint and shot 82 percent, going 9-11 from the field.
The win against China gave the Americans their 46th consecutive win, and fourth time in five games scoring over 100 points.
The bench for America separates the U.S from its opponents. With an enormous amount of talent on the bench, team USA head coach Geno Auriemma can substitute his players in and out with ease.
The U.S. is averaging 53 points per game from its bench, compared to its opponents’ average of 30 bench points. The Americans’ bench players scored 47 points against China.
As Group B’s No. 1 seed, the U.S. will cruise into the quarterfinals with a 5-0 record and will look to battle Japan on Aug. 16.
With team USA just three games away from potentially its sixth-straight gold medal, Griner is peaking and gaining her confidence just in time.