In a battle of unbeaten teams, the United States clinched first place in its group with an 81-51 win over Canada on Friday at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Storm guard Sue Bird had a game-high nine assists for the Americans, tying her own Olympic career high and matching Dawn Staley for second on the USA’s all-time list with 80 career assists.
Bird, playing in her fourth Olympics, is now averaging 6.3 dimes through four games. She was the only USA player that didn’t score on Friday, but also had four rebounds, one steal and just two turnovers in 23 minutes. Storm teammate Breanna Stewart added five points in 11 minutes of action, including an alley-oop layup from Bird in the fourth quarter. It was the second time they connected on an alley-oop this tournament.
Friday marked the Americans’ lowest scoring output thus far – they reached 100 points in each of the first three games – but also their best defensive game. No Canada player reached double figures, and the USA held its opponent to 32.8 percent shooting while forcing 20 turnovers.
Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi scored 12 points apiece, and Tina Charles added 10. Taurasi continued her hot shooting from deep by hitting 4-of-5 from three-point range, with three of them assisted by Bird.
After the USA led just 18-16 heading into the second frame, Bird ran the point for much of a 15-3 run late in the quarter. Moore scored all of her 12 points in the first half, guiding the USA to a 36-22 edge at the break. The lead was increased to 20 by the midway point of the third quarter and 60-36 heading into the fourth.
The USA will face China in its final preliminary-round game on Sunday at 8:15 a.m. PT.
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When the quarterfinal matchups are played next Tuesday, there’s a good chance the USA will be going up against Storm forward Ramu Tokashiki and Japan.
Despite losing 92-86 to Australia on Thursday, Japan (2-2) has clinched a spot in the knockout round and currently sits in fourth in its group. Tokashiki’s team had a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter before Australia came from behind to win its fourth straight game. Tokashiki scored 23 points in the loss and is now averaging 18.8 points per game, the third-highest average in the tournament.
Japan plays its final preliminary-round game against France on Saturday at 1:45 p.m. PT. Australia, the No. 2 team in the FIBA World Rankings behind the USA, has clinched the top spot in its group and could not face the Americans until the gold-medal game.