Rio De Janeiro, Brazil — Watching the opening quarter of the U.S. Women’s basketball team’s game against Spain on Monday morning, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
After more than six minutes into the game, the United States were up a mere five points.
Five points. That’s it.
I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Was the United States ‘hungover’ after their 65-point win over Senegal the day before? I didn’t think so, but hey; it’s possible.
To be fair, Spain is a good team. They won their opening game on Sunday, too, beating Serbia 65-59. They’re the third-ranked team in the world. So it was to be expected that this game be slightly more difficult for the United States.
But only a five point lead? That didn’t seem right.
Then in the coming minutes, I realized something I had forgotten: I’m watching the best team in the world.
The United States went on a 23-6 run to close out the first quarter, blowing away any hope of a close game. By halftime, the Americans had built up a 17-point lead, going up 54-37 heading into the locker room.
By the third quarter, they were up 23 points. The run didn’t stop in the fourth quarter, with the United States nearly doubling its lead.
The United States beat Spain 103-63, advancing to 2-0 in group play.
After watching the final three-quarters of the game, I had completely forgotten the first quarter stumble. I forgot that I had doubted the United States, and then felt stupid for doing so.
I’m sure I wasn’t alone in my early doubts about this game. But while us watching at home may have had these doubts, head coach Gino Auriemma and his squad did not. They weren’t going to lose to Spain on Monday morning — they knew they we’re going to win. It just took the better half of the first quarter for them to kick it into gear.
The United States still has three games left in group play in Rio, with their next matchup coming against Serbia on Wednesday.
And even if the United States slips early again in group play, or has a bad quarter, I wouldn’t worry about it. They’ve shown that they can recover.
They’ve all but demonstrated that they’re the best team in the world — all that’s missing is a gold medal.