Despite having just a handful of practices together before traveling to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics, the USA Women’s National Team has proven it’s ready to earn a sixth straight gold medal.
Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart and the Americans went 4-0 in their exhibition slate, capping off the USA Basketball Showcase presented by Verizon with a 104-89 win over Australia on Sunday. Australia, currently No. 2 in the FIBA World Rankings, has lost to the USA in three of the last four Olympic gold-medal games. The USA also won 84-62 over fourth-ranked France and 83-43 over ninth-ranked Canada last week.
After completing the USA Basketball Showcase – which started with a narrow win over the Select Team last Monday – the National Team has one final practice before heading to Brazil on Tuesday.
“This competition showed that we played three teams that have a pretty good chance to medal,” head coach Geno Auriemma said after Sunday’s game in New York. “We try to tell everybody that this isn’t as easy as it looks. The thing about Australia is they have been in Rio already. They have been overseas already, and they have trained together for months, and months and months. We have to work really, really hard to make it look the way we made it look today, and today wasn’t easy.”
In their trio of games against Olympic teams, the Americans were dominant thanks to balanced scoring from the starters and reserves. Although the victory over Canada was convincing from start to finish, France and Australia both went toe-to-toe with the USA in the first half before Bird’s team pulled away.
Now preparing for her fourth consecutive Olympics, Bird was once again the starting point guard this past week, and she led the USA in assists each of the last three games. The veteran averaged six dimes while committing just one turnover in the entire three-game span. Stewart, making her first Olympic appearance, averaged five points and 2.8 rebounds in 13 minutes per game during the exhibition slate.
Diana Taurasi led the team in scoring twice, including 20 points in Sunday’s high-scoring affair against Australia in front of 13,520 at Madison Square Garden.
“They’re a really good team. I know the score is going to make it look like we dominated the game, but that wasn’t the case at all,” Bird said. “From the tip to the end we had to play really hard, had to play really smart to win that game. They’re a very good team, and I know they will only get better in the next two weeks.
“We’re probably going to see this team again. We were able to learn some things about ourselves and about them.”
The USA begins its preliminary round of the Olympics on Sunday at 8 a.m. PT against Senegal, the lowest-ranked team in the tournament. A rematch with Canada will occur on Aug. 12 before the Americans close out the preliminary round on Aug. 14 against China.
Ramu Tokashiki and the Japan National Team, playing in a different group, open the tournament on Saturday at 3:45 p.m. PT against Belarus. For information on how to watch the games, click here.