US women ready to dominate basketball for 20 more years

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Jim Slater
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Rio de Janeiro (AFP) - As dominating as the US Olympic women's basketball team has been for the past 20 years, there are American teens set to extend the dynasty for another two decades.

The Americans captured their sixth consecutive gold medal and eighth in nine tries by beating Spain 101-72 on Saturday, stretching their Olympic win streak to 49 games since a 1992 semi-final defeat.

Even with veteran leaders Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Tamika Catchings stepping aside after matching the record with four gold medals, the US squad has rising young players in college and the Women's NBA set to seamlessly replace lost talent for 2020 and beyond.

"If you took this whole squad away and bring in another group of girls, they will probably win a gold medal," US forward Angel McCoughtry said.

"There's so much talent. You've still got so many girls who aren't even on this team yet. Another group can come in and win a gold. You've got a lot of girls ready for every spot."

There's a heritage of leadership passed along from one golden generation to the next, a legacy of success rivaling anything ever seen at the Games.

"This team will try to pass on to the next group of players just people leading by example," said US guard Lindsay Whalen.

"We just try to do as well as we can and pass it on, kind of just the culture and the way we approach every game."

As easy as they make some games look, the work and time spent to perfect their form and teamwork.

"I hope the next crop of kids know how hard this has been," Taurasi said.

As Bird steps from the spotlight, she has confidence the tradition she has helped build will continue.

"As far as the future goes, I feel really confident about it. I really do," Bird said.

"We just have such a large amount of talent in our country. We push each other every summer in the WNBA and we show each other what it takes. I think that talent is going to speak for itself."

She noted how players whose names the US team once didn't know to pronounce are now well scouted in meticulous detail.

"With that comes a certain confidence to play against this style," she said.

US coach Geno Auriemma said even as global rivals improve, so does the US committment to excellence.

"Right now we're at a real high level that maybe no one has ever seen before," he said. "I think it's because women's basketball just keeps getting stronger in the US.

"If you just took us out of the tournament, this would be an amazing tournament. But unfortunately we're not going anywhere."