Team USA entered its fourth meeting of the preliminary round expecting a slugfest. The undefeated squad was due to meet the similarly-perfect Canadian squad, a formidable opponent that reminded of the Australia team that gave the Team USA Men’s outfit so much trouble on Wednesday, even though the Men’s squad eventually downed Australia in that battle of undefeated outfits.
This action wasn’t nearly as close. Even after a tight first quarter, Team USA pulled away with sound defense and opportunistic offense, topping Canada by a 81-51 margin. The Americans entered the contest averaging over 111 points per game in three games thus far, and it was only a matter of time before the favorites broke through. This counts as Team USA’s 45th consecutive win in Olympic competition.
Maya Moore scored 12 points to tie Diana Taurasi for the team lead, while Sue Bird added nine assists before being spelled by Lindsay Whalen – the 34-year old’s pugnacious play early on was a needed addition to Team USA’s rotation. Tina Charles contributed 10 points and five rebounds, as Team USA worked its way to yet another blowout win.
The start was rather ugly, however.
Canada turned the ball over five times and missed four free throws in the first quarter, but was still only down two to USA entering the second period. That semi-surprise ran stride by stride with Team USA’s puny 18-point output, an embarrassment for a roster averaging nearly 28 points a quarter entering he contest, and Canada had all the reason to think that cleaning up its motion on the offensive end would provide the setting for a close game throughout.
It wasn’t happening.
Team Canada missed its first eight shots of the second quarter, pairing that with nine turnovers as the American women tightened the screws. It took Sue Bird slipping on the floor defensively for Nirra Fields to drive in and score Canada’s first bucket of the quarter with just under 40 seconds left in the period. Team USA once again compiled just 18 points in the second period, but it had established a 14-point lead as Canada entering the half with 14 turnovers and a 1-10 mark from long range, scoring just six points in the second quarter.
Team USA was only slightly better from outside, mostly for lack of trying – the team took just one attempt from long range in the first quarter and three in the second. Diana Taurasi followed up on her record-setting three-point workout against Serbia from earlier in the round by hitting two three-pointers as her team pulled away in the second period, finishing with 12 points overall on 4-5 shooting from long range. She is now shooting 18-29 (62 percent) from behind the arc in these Olympics.
Canada’s hope to slow the game down was realized, it kept Team USA off the line in the first half and Canada’s defensive marks were well-earned. So were the Americans’ goals and hopes, though, as it successfully talked on defense, continually moving its feet while using its length and anticipation (even with Brittney Griner, three blocks, off the court) to take away the backdoor offensive game that had bedeviled Canada’s previous opponents.
Team USA has one more game in the preliminary round, against a younger China squad on Sunday, prior to the knockout round.
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