In an Olympic quarterfinal featuring three Storm players – Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart for the United States and Ramu Tokashiki for Japan – the USA used a dominant second half to earn a 110-64 win on Tuesday in Rio de Janeiro.
The Americans reached 100 points for the fifth time out of six games, tying the 1996 team for most 100-point outings in a single Olympics. Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore each scored a game-high 19 points for the USA, while Tokashiki led Japan with 14 points on 6-of-14 shooting, along with four assists and three rebounds.
Stewart played 10 minutes off the bench, recording two points, three assists and three blocks. Bird played eight minutes in the first half before exiting the game with an injury, and she didn’t play in the second half. An update on Bird will be provided when further information is available.
Japan kept it close for most of the first quarter, as the game was tied at 14 midway through the period. Moore scored 10 of those 14 points for the USA, while Tokashiki had six points on 3-of-4 shooting in the opening frame. Her running floater trimmed the USA’s lead to 30-23 at the end of the quarter.
The lead was increased to double digits early in the second quarter, but the Japanese fought their way back into the game and cut it to 46-44 on a Tokashiki layup. The USA then closed the half on an 8-0 run, including back-to-back jumpers by Seimone Augustus that made it 56-46 at the break. Tokashiki finished the first half with 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting and three assists.
Japan pulled within six in the opening minutes of the second half, but the USA responded with a 14-1 run that featured seven points from Taurasi. Another jumper from Taurasi gave the Americans their first 20-point lead, 74-53, with 2:45 to go in the third. The edge was 81-59 at the end of the quarter.
An 8-0 run, this time to begin the fourth quarter, pushed the USA lead to 30 points after a layup by Brittney Griner. The Americans coasted from there, as Japan was held to five points in the final frame.
Although they failed to reach the medal round, the Japanese had a strong showing in their first Olympics since 2004. Japan’s 3-2 record in the preliminary round was tied for second in Group A – the tiebreaker of point differential caused them finish fourth and set up a matchup with the USA. Tokashiki’s nation reached the quarterfinals for the first time since 1996.
Tokashiki finished the tournament with averages of 17.0 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
The Americans, now 6-0 in this tournament, are two victories away from clinching their sixth straight gold medal. They will meet either France or Canada in the semifinals on Thursday.
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Elsewhere in the knockout round, perhaps the biggest threat to the USA was eliminated when Serbia defeated Australia earlier on Tuesday. Sparks guard Ana Dabovic scored 24 points for Serbia in a 73-71 victory.
This will mark the first time Australia – No. 2 in the FIBA World Rankings even without recently retired Lauren Jackson – didn’t medal at the Olympics since 1992. The Opals had faced the USA in three of the last four gold-medal games.
In another tightly contested quarterfinal, Spain won 64-62 over Turkey on a buzzer-beater by former Lynx and Liberty guard Anna Cruz. All three winners thus far have come from Group B, and Serbia and Spain will meet Thursday for a spot in the gold-medal game.