It wasn’t easy, but the United States is now one step closer to another Olympic gold medal.
France gave the USA its toughest test of the tournament in Thursday’s semifinal, as the lead was just four at halftime and 11 in the final minutes. The Americans held on for an 86-67 win and improved to 7-0 in these Olympics, setting up a duel with Spain in the gold-medal game on Saturday.
Diana Taurasi was once again the leading scorer for the USA, tallying 18 points and also dishing out a team-high four assists. She made a trio of three-pointers, surpassing the record for threes in a single Olympics with 28 total. Maya Moore scored 15 points for the USA, Sylvia Fowles added 12 and Brittney Griner and Seimone Augustus each had 10.
Storm guard and four-time Olympian Sue Bird did not suit up for Thursday’s game due to the knee capsule sprain she suffered in the quarterfinals. Augustus started in her place, sharing the initial point-guard duties with Taurasi. Bird is listed as day-to-day and could play in the gold-medal game.
The USA certainly felt the absence of Bird, committing 18 turnovers with just 15 assists.
It was evident right from the start, as France held a 9-6 lead after four minutes of action. The USA led 19-15 after one quarter and increased its edge to double digits at 32-22 on an Augustus floater, but France went on another run late in the second quarter to make it 40-36 at halftime. It was the first time the USA didn’t lead by double digits at halftime in this tournament.
The Americans then dominated the third quarter, outscoring France 25-8 to push their lead to 21. After going 0-for-4 from three-point range in the first half, the USA used a pair of Taurasi treys early in the third quarter to begin pulling away from the 2012 silver medalists.
Storm rookie Breanna Stewart played the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, helping the USA increase its advantage to as many as 25. France made it interesting with a 10-0 run down the stretch, but Taurasi and Moore closed the deal and the USA won its 48th straight Olympic game.
Aiming for an unprecedented sixth straight gold medal, the USA will face a nation that has never played in a gold-medal game in women’s basketball. The Americans beat Spain 103-63 in the preliminary round, but Spain is now 6-1 in this tournament after a 68-54 win over Serbia in the semifinals.
The gold-medal game is scheduled to tip off at 11:30 a.m. PT on Saturday.