Breanna Stewart’s Steady Production Off the Bench Helping USA Prevail in Olympics

Late in the first quarter of Wednesday’s game against Serbia, United States forward Elena Delle Donne picked up two fouls in quick succession. She headed to the bench, and Breanna Stewart took her spot – a rookie replacing the WNBA MVP.

In the first two games of the Olympics, Stewart hadn’t entered until the second quarter and finished with one of the lowest minute totals on the team. Her production has been superb, however, as the Storm forward is now averaging 13.7 points per game on 75 percent shooting after a 17-point outing against Serbia. Stewart, the youngest Olympic player for the USA since 1988, is also shooting 83.3 percent at the foul line and hauling in four rebounds per game.

Stewart shot 5-of-8 from the field and grabbed five rebounds on Wednesday, helping the USA improve to 3-0 in the preliminary round with a 110-84 win. The Americans have clinched a spot in the knockout round by earning their 44th straight Olympic victory. The last time they lost, Stewart wasn’t even born.

Diana Taurasi scored a game-high 25 points against Serbia, setting a new USA Olympic record with six three-pointers. Tina Charles added 15 points, and Storm guard Sue Bird finished with two points, three assists and two steals in 20 minutes.

Maya Moore sparked an 11-2 start for the USA, but Serbia responded with a trio of three-pointers to gain a 17-16 lead with 3:40 to go in the first quarter. Taurasi then hit three consecutive shots from deep, and a Stewart reverse layup gave the USA its first double-digit edge, 29-19.

Stewart continued to have an impact in the second frame, scoring seven straight points for the Americans on a three-pointer, driving layup and pair of free throws. Bird assisted on back-to-back threes by Taurasi and Moore as part of a 20-4 run that saw the USA increase its lead to 56-34 by halftime.

Stewart had nine points in six minutes in the first half, making all three of her shot attempts.

After a tightly contested third quarter, Stewart re-entered at the start of the fourth, hitting four free throws and converting a pair of close-range shots to help the USA maintain its advantage. Her free throw with four minutes remaining gave the Americans 100 points for the third straight game, the first time any women’s team has done so in Olympic play.

The USA will be back in action on Friday at 11:30 a.m. PT against Canada.

— — — —

Storm forward Ramu Tokashiki has guided Japan to a 2-1 record thus far, featuring wins over Belarus and Brazil and a loss to Turkey in their most recent game on Tuesday. In her first Olympics, Tokashiki is scoring 17.3 points per game, the sixth-highest average in the tournament.

Japan will face Australia (3-0) on Thursday at 1:45 p.m. PT.