A’ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart led the United States to another hard-fought victory on Monday at the Saitama Super Arena in Japan, as the team defeated France 93-82. Team USA had already clinched a spot in the quarterfinals, but it must have felt good to finish group play at 3-0 and extend its Olympic win streak to 52 games.
Wilson’s mid-range and inside games were phenomenal en route to 22 points while Stewart was good for 17 to go along with seven rebounds and seven assists.
The U.S. probably expected more out of Tina Charles in its first two Olympic games considering how well she has played in the WNBA this season and Charles better lived up to expectations against France with 15 points and five assists. She was 3-of-3 from beyond the arc and all of her points seemed to come at key moments. She scored four points late in the first quarter to help ensure France only led by three after one and then gave the U.S. leads of four, two and 10, in that order, with her threes. The first came with 59 seconds left in the third, the second one minute and 33 seconds into the fourth and the third with 5:04 remaining.
Charles was held scoreless against Japan and had six points against Nigeria.
Sue Bird also warmed up a little bit in this game. After scoring just three points in the first two games combined, she notched six on Monday on an efficient 2-of-3 effort from distance, including a three that gave Team USA a nine-point lead with six minutes to play. The team led by at least seven from that point on.
The U.S. led by just four entering the fourth before Endene Miyem hit a three 11 seconds into the frame to cut it to one. France then took a 72-71 lead on a Valeriane Vukosavljevic layup 44 seconds later. Charles made her second three and Wilson followed with four-straight points for a 7-0 U.S. run that made it 78-72 USA.
France cut it to four on a Miyem mid-range make from the right baseline, but that was their last hurrah of sorts because Wilson followed with a cutting layup before Bird’s key triple.
Brittney Griner was fourth on Team USA with 11 points while Sylvia Fowles added nine. Fowles, a non-elite (career 72.8 percent) free throw shooter, went 5-of-5 from the stripe and the U.S. went 14-of-16 as a team.
Jewell Loyd, who was averaging 10 points entering the contest, was held to just two, but dished out eight assists.
Diana Taurasi, who was averaging 10.5 points entering the contest, left the game within the first two minutes with an apparently aggravated right wrist. She would return, but played just 11:19 and scored just three points.
France was led in scoring by 6-foot-4 center Sandrine Gruda (15 points, six rebounds). Future Los Angeles Spark Gabby Williams added 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and an incredible six steals. Williams was traded from the Sky to the Sparks during the WNBA preseason but is missing the 2021 regular season. She averaged 7.7 points per game in the wubble and, at age 24, could be a rising star.
Another WNBA talent impressed for France and that was Iliana Rupert, the No. 12 overall pick in the 2021 draft (Las Vegas Aces). The 20-year-old had 12 points and flashed a smooth mid-range game. Miyem also had 12 points, Alexia Chartereau had 10 and Marine Johannes had nine to go along with seven helpers.