Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — The unselfishness of the U.S. “Dream Team” has proven immense capability in making a victory look like taking candy from a baby, something Team USA has undoubtedly done thus far in Rio considering their 6-0 record, 47 consecutive Olympic wins, and average lead of 45-points per game.
In the start of quarterfinal play, the number one ranked team in the world did the predictable— won. USA sent top-ranked team Japan home in a knockout round at Barra Carioca Arena, with a 46-point advantage (110-64).
Japan’s feisty play and quick feet gave Team USA a run for their money, as both teams went back-to-back in three-pointers, but Japan’s ball rotation came to a halt as U.S. extended their lead to six points at the end of the first, 30-23.
Team USA bursts into the second quarter with heat, as they picked up speed with a 10-2 run, while the Japanese continued to attack from the inside, refusing to let up in the paint.
But in the final minute of play, USA’s two-point lead turned into an eight-to-nothing outburst, as Seimone Augustus scored on two consecutive possessions, extending the USA’s lead to 10-points (56-46).
Augustus commented on the importance of momentum going into the half, “We definitely needed that momentum, because they had crept in there within four, or something like that, so we needed to gain some momentum going into the half, and it kind of capitulated us into getting a better lead in the second half.”
Things began to click for Team USA in the second half, as Team USA locked down on defense, assuring Japan would miss outside shots. With starting point guard Sue Bird on the bench with a knee injury, Team USA acquired offensive fouls, as Japan’s overwhelming competition in the paint forced turnovers.
But with a 20-3 outburst, Team USA pulled away with a 22-point lead (81-59), outscoring Japan 25-13 and shooting 11-of-13 in the third quarter.
Baskets came easy in the fourth, as U.S. had remarkable shooting with a 33-9 run, outscoring Japan 29-to-5. Not to mention, the USA’s 10-point lead at halftime had been extended to 46-points at the final buzzer.
Moore commented on the change between the first and second half stating, “I think it’s just a matter of us wearing teams down. We play at a high level. We try to play at a high level for 40 minutes. It’s not going to happen perfectly.
“We just tried to do our best to stay with our game plan and be aggressive, and our defense really kick started our offense in the second half where we were able to get a lot of stops in a row and stifling runs that we were trying to make,” finished Moore.
Maya Moore played a terrific nine minutes in the first quarter, shooting two-of-two from three-point range and adding 12-points to the board, while Dianna Taurasi scored five three-pointers, adding 19 overall points to the score.
Mika Kurihara went three-for-three from beyond the arch, for a total of 12-points in the first half, while Japan’s Ramu Tokashiki ended with 14-points.
Team USA Women’s Basketball fights to get to the gold medal round, as they look to continue their legacy in the semifinals on Thursday, against France at 6pm EST.