Victor R. Caviano/Associated Press
Victor R. Caviano/Associated Press
Expected to dominate, they did. All those style points were a bonus.
The U.S. women’s basketball team routed France 86-50 in the final Saturday, winning their fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal and putting more distance between themselves and the rest of the world heading to Rio for the 2016 Games.
Candace Parker scored 21 points, including eight in a row during the game-changing run in the second quarter as the U.S. took command of the game.
“It’s not easy to just be put together and be expected to win a gold medal,” guard Diana Taurasi said. “It’s a special feeling.”
The win was the latest in this dominant run the Americans have been on over the last 16 years. The U.S. now has won 41 consecutive games in the Olympics since taking the bronze medal in 1992.
The Americans haven’t just been winning, they’ve been blowing past opponents. Only one team has come within single digits of them since the streak started in 1996. They’ve won by nearly 30 points a game. The U.S. has lost only once in major international competitions since 1996, against Russia in the semifinals of the 2006 world championship.
The names change on the U.S. uniforms, but the results don’t.
Teresa Edwards, Dawn Staley, Sheryl Swoopes and Lisa Leslie got the amazing run started, and now Taurasi, Sue Bird and Tamika Catchings have continued it.
With young stars Parker, Maya Moore and Tina Charles a big part of the success in London it doesn’t look like the run will end anytime soon.
Catchings said the Americans “just wanted to keep that legacy going.”
Edwards, a five-time Olympian, said no worry there.
“The legacy is real,” said Edwards, who had a front-row seat Saturday night. “What these kids have been doing is amazing – without much time to practice, in the middle of the WNBA season, and they look good. It’s like the whole world knows who we are. I’m really proud of them.
“They’re definitely among some of the best” U.S. teams.
The U.S. faced its only challenge of the London Games when Australia took a four-point halftime lead. It was the first time in 12 years the Americans had been trailing at the half. There was no panic or worry. They just stepped up their defense and vanquished the Aussies, winning by 13 points.
France, which came into the gold-medal game unbeaten, stayed with the U.S. for the first 12 minutes before Parker took over. She scored eight consecutive points during a 13-2 run that gave the U.S. a 37-23 advantage.
Twice the 6-4 Parker grabbed the rebound on the defensive end and dribbled up through the defense, scoring on the other end.
While Parker – who also had 11 rebounds – was providing the offense, the Americans turned up their defense, holding France to just one basket over the final 7:25 of the half.
“We always felt like as long as we played our best ... we’d be all right,” Bird said.
The U.S. led by 12 at the half and poured it on in the third quarter. France was able to get within 41-31, but the U.S. ended the French’s hope of the monumental upset, scoring 13 of the next 14 points.
The silver medal was the first for France, a country on the rise in international basketball.
With the victory, Moore joined an exclusive club. She’s just the seventh player to win titles in college, the WNBA, the FIBA world championship and the Olympics. Teammates Bird, Taurasi and Swin Cash already are members.
Eric Gay/Associated Press