Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — On the World’s biggest stage, it was a total group effort in the USA’s 103-63 win over Spain. With 55 of their total points coming off the bench, it took every player donning the red, white and blue to make the magic happen in the second game on their quest for gold.
After getting off to a slow start, Coach Geno Auriemma and Team USA relied on veteran leaders like Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird to kick it into gear and get the job done. With both Taurasi and Bird competing in their fourth Olympic Games, experience is certainly not lacking.
“D (Diana Taurasi) is constant, you know kind of everything revolved around her and Sue it seems like,” said Coach Auriemma.
Along with the veterans on this team comes a new generation of Team USA players that are stars in their own right.
“God, they could be starting on this team, there’s no question about it,” said Bird.
“Their youth and I guess their lack of international experience is the one area, but that will come with time.”
After coming off a record-setting win against Senegal, the pressure was on to keep the momentum going. Thanks to the new generation of Team USA stars, Bird spoke so highly of what comes from a deep bench, something that was of great use in Team USA’s win over Spain.
Sylvia Fowles and Elena Delle Donne led the way for the bench players with 12 apiece, followed by Angel McCountry with 10. Rookie Breanna Stewart chipped in nine points, while Lindsey Whalen and Seimone Augustus both contributed six points.
This depth is critical to the success of Team USA against a team like Spain, who is ranked third in the world, despite what the final score of this game might convey.
“Generally speaking, we wear teams down,” said Bird.
“We wear them down, and they get tired, and then we bring in the next five, and then we bring in another five – a rested five. The score doesn’t speak to the talent level of Spain.”
She’s right; it doesn’t. But it does speak to the talent level of the United States.
After two consecutive 40 (or more) point victories, Bird and the rest of her flock turn their focus to their next game against Serbia, a team the United States knows very well.
“We’ve got to rebound,” according to Bird.
“We gave them a lot of offensive rebounds. That’s kind of what kept them in the game for a while.”
On the other hand, Taurasi says, “One thing we know about the Serbs is they can shoot. They can score. So it’s always a tough game against them.”
While facing Team USA is surely a daunting task, the women know that they have a target on their backs, and it is not small.
Bird knows that very well.
“There’s also that opportunity to upset; there’s that also that opportunity to make history that I’m sure is in the back of all their minds, and that’s what we’re guarding against.”
Team USA is 2-0 in group play and looks to avoid that upset and improve their record to 3-0 against Serbia on Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET.