USA Women Capture Historic 5th-Straight Gold Medal with Win Over France
Caroline Williams, USA Basketball
Candace Parker Leads USA With 21 Points, 11 Rebounds As All 12 U.S. Players Score
Owning a comfortable 12-point lead at halftime over previously unbeaten France (7-1), the U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball Team (8-0) blew the game wide open with a 19-0 run in the third quarter that propelled the USA to a 86-50 win and a fifth-straight Olympic gold medal on Saturday evening at North Greenwich Arena in London, England.
In capturing its unprecedented fifth-straight Olympic gold (dating back to 1996), a feat never before accomplished in any women's traditional team sport, the USA women have compiled a 41-game Olympic winning streak that began with the 1992 bronze medal game.
"You know, you go into every game thinking that there's going to be some things that you have to do, and if you do those things you're going to have a chance you can win it," said Geno Auriemma, USA and University of Connecticut head coach. "France was probably playing as well as anytime I've ever seen them, since I've been the coach anyway. And when you're going into it the way they're playing, they got a lot of confidence. And we tried to really disrupt them and get them into the kind of game they weren't comfortable playing, and I think we did that right from the beginning.
"When Candace Parker came in the game, the game changed completely," Auriemma continued. "I thought she was the biggest difference in the game tonight. We all just kind of took that and ran with it. We beat a really good team, but we're a great team."
"I don't remember who scored what points or how many rebounds you had," said Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks). "You just remember you won a gold medal and who was on your team. I think that this is just so sweet to get the second one. I was told a lot that Michael Jordan, when he was playing in Chicago, always said it's easy -- well, it's not easy -- but you can stumble on a championship once, but it's really hard to do it twice. And for USA Basketball to do it five times in a row, that's truly special."
Shooting 10-of-14 from the field on her way to 21 points, Parker also grabbed 11 rebounds, and Sue Bird (Seattle Storm) added 11 points. All 12 U.S. players scored in a balanced attack that featured 22 assists on 34 made field goals.
"I think our depth is by far the biggest key for us," Bird said. "We are able to wear teams down. Not very many teams go 12 deep and with that over a two-week tournament, these teams have to play a lot of minutes ... seven, eight players play a lot of minutes, and I think none of us have to. So we are just able to wear teams down and by the end for the most part you can see teams get tired, and that's where we really capitalize."
The gold medal is a third for Bird, Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), who added nine points and six assists, and Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever), who finished with four points and five rebounds.
"Even if you win a game by 30, if you win by 10, the whole process is really difficult to try to get 12 really good players to kind of just buy into one thing," Taurasi said. "It takes awhile; it takes a lot of effort. By the end of it, I think we succeeded in what we wanted to do, we were lucky enough to win a gold medal doing it."
While Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx), Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky) and Parker also earned gold in 2008, Swin Cash (Chicago Sky) picked up her first gold medal in 2004. Earning Olympic gold for their first time were: Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun), Asjha Jones (Connecticut Sun), Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream), Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx) and Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx).
With her Olympic gold, Moore becomes the seventh U.S. woman to have earned NCAA and WNBA titles, a FIBA World Championship gold medal and an Olympic gold medal. The previous six include Bird, Cash, Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes, Taurasi and Kara Wolters.
"It's hard," Moore said of blending together as a team. "That's why team sports are so much fun to watch because it's really an artwork of a game of how can you fit these pieces together knowing that anyone of us could score 30 if we had to, but we don't have to. So it's kind of hard to do what you are usually not called on to do. But we made it work and it was beautiful."
The USA held France to 28.1 percent shooting for the game (18-64 FGs) and caused 21 turnovers, which it converted into 27 points. The USA also delivered the ball inside to record 46 points in the paint.
"It was a good game," McCoughtry said. "Everyone keeps saying that we're blowing teams out, but these aren't easy games. Every game is hard, you know, and the scoreboard doesn't show it, but these games are very hard games."
France put the first points on the board, but Taurasi answered with a 3-pointer that was followed by a score from Charles, and the USA lead 5-2 at 8:54. As the USA shot just 4-of-12 (.333) from the field in the first seven minutes, France fought back to take a 13-11 lead with a 3-pointer at 3:54. Four different U.S. scorers helped the Americans close on a 9-2 run to take a 20-15 lead at the first break.
After France pulled within three points early in the second stanza, Taurasi sank two free throws to restore the five-point lead, 26-21, at 7:05. From there, Parker led the USA with nine points over the next 5:26, and along with a score from Fowles, the USA once again closed the stanza with a 9-2 advantage to take a 37-25 lead to the halftime locker room.
The U.S. defense frustrated France throughout, and the European's low shooting percentage helped the USA tally a 27-18 rebounding advantage at the midway point.
"They have great players, so for us our game plan was just to come out, obviously not let them score and try to keep the ball out of certain people's hands. I felt from our defensive pressure we did a really good job; and offensively, once we kind of settled down a little bit, being able to knock down shots and layups, that really helped us," Catchings said.
The USA lead shifted between nine and 12 points through the first three minutes of the third quarter. With the USA leading 43-32 at 6:54, two straight scores from Taurasi ignited the USA's largest run of the game -- a 19-0 spurt that featured six U.S. scorers and put the game out of reach. In fact, France did not score from the field for a full eight minutes. A free throw ended the USA's run at 1:13 to bring the score to 62-33, and Celine Dumerc broke France's cold shooting streak with a score at 9.3 seconds to end the period with the USA well in control, 63-37.
The U.S. lead continued to grow in the fourth quarter, and with a made free throw from Catchings at 4:30, all 12 American players had scored. Overall, the USA outscored France 20-13 in the last 10 minutes to bring the game to its 83-50 final.
"A lot of years, a lot of really good teamwork from this team, and we put it together tonight and this whole tournament so … tonight, that run in the second half really put us over the edge," Whalen said of the team. "Sue and Candace had some really great performances tonight; it was just cool to see."
Entering the gold medal game, the USA already had set the competition rebounding record and the blocked shots record. Finishing with a total of 404 rebounds, the 2012 squad shattered the mark of 344 boards that were collected in 2008. Additionally, its 41 blocked shots erased the previous high of 31 from 2008, and its 597 filed goals attempted set a record that had been 568 from 2004.
Sandrine Gruda and Edwige Lawson-Wade scored 12 points apiece for France.
In the bronze medal game earlier today, Australia (6-2) beat Russia (4-4) 83-74.
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