Rio De Janiero, Brazil – Team USA (8-0) came into the gold medal showdown versus Team Spain leading the Olympic games in every major statistical category other than free throw percentage and steals per game.
While Spain (6-2) relished in the opportunity to compete for the country’s first-ever gold medal – something they frankly had no business doing – the United States searched for and later found its sixth straight Olympic gold medal, defeating Spain 101-72.
“Obviously, it was an incredible tournament for us,” Geno Auriemma said. “From the very first game that we played to today, with very few exceptions I thought we played basketball at a really high level. I can’t say enough about our players.
“How quickly they’ve come together, how much they’ve been able to accomplish in less than a month that we’ve been together. It wasn’t as easy as sometimes it looked.”
“We had a goal to win the gold medal, but there was something else we wanted to get across,” Taurasi said. “This is probably the best team sport you can play, and we made it that way. It wasn’t about one person or one coach. It was about being the best team that we could.”
The rims were tight, to begin with for both squads, but Maya Moore and Tina Charles helped change that to give the USA an early 5-2 lead in quarter one. Feeling no pressure, Spain notched its first lead of the game shortly after thanks to Laia Palau’s three-pointer, assisted by Alba Torrens. Torrens continued to set the tone rattling off 10 points in 10 minutes to keep Spain within striking distance, 21-17.
Sue Bird – fighting the injury bug – was the first to score for USA to open up the second quarter, but Spain still hung around much in part to Torrens and a three-pointer from Astou Ndour to make the score 27-24.
However, the United States took its first double-digit lead of the afternoon not long after. It was none other than Diana Taurasi who single-handedly shifted the momentum after back-to-back three-pointers, and Moore who finished the first half with 12 points and five assists.
On the brink of breaking multiple Olympic scoring records, the United States showcased their dominance in the second half just as they did in the first. Geno Auriemma’s crew took a 17-point lead at halftime (49-32) and held Spain to a mere five shots attempts in the second quarter.
With another three by Taurasi and a 22-point cushion early in the third, USA was likely salivating at the thought an Olympic gold medal. It would have been easy to hit cruise control for the United States – but that was far from the case.
Every player who saw time in game eight pitched in at least three points – Moore paving the way with 14 points and six assists, Taurasi with 17 points on 6-10 shooting and Lindsay Whalen with 17 points in addition to six assists off the bench.
“You play these eight games, and you want to win so bad,” Moore said. The one thing we didn’t do is we didn’t take any possessions off. We played every single game like it was a gold medal game, and that’s why I think you see everyone is emotionally and physically spent right now.
“And that takes a certain character team and individuals. I’ve never been a part of anything like this.”
Moore, Taurasi and company took no prisoners as the overwhelming depth, talent and defensive tenacity of USA surely took its toll on Spain in the final 20 minutes of action. With less than five minutes remaining, Team USA was just 10 points away from punching in triple-digit points for the sixth time this Olympics. The Americans did just that – routing Spain by a final score of 101-72 to walk away gold medalists.