Flashback: USA Women Run Over Brazil 111-87 to 1996 Capture Gold Medal
In the very end, the USA women's basketball team dominated Brazil in the Olympic gold medal game as they had dominated virtually every opponent they had faced.
Behind Lisa Leslie's 29 points, on 12-of-14 shooting from the field, and a suffocating defense that shut down Brazil's high-powered offense, the U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball Team claimed an emotional 111-87 win on Aug. 4 at the Georgia Dome to reclaim the Olympic gold medal for the USA.
Compiling a sterling 8-0 record during the Olympics and winning its games by an average margin of victory of 28.5 points a game, the USA which began training on October 2, 1995, compiled a 52-0 overall record during its 10 months of training prior to the Olympics. All told, the U.S. team finished with a sparkling 60-0 won-loss record.
"Our defense was the key to it," said the victorious USA head coach Tara VanDreveer. "Our defense was good, and our subs were good. All the things that people said we weren't supposed to be able to do we did really well. I am just really happy for this team. These are women who worked really heard. We were on a mission all year. They took care of business. I am really proud of all of them, I am very happy."
Shooting 71.9% (23-32 FGs) from the field in the first half, including 71.4% (5-7 3pt FGs) from 3-point, the USA offense was on track right from the opening tip. The two teams scored plenty in the game's opening minutes, but neither team was able to establish an upper hand.
Leading 31-27 with 9:30 to go in the opening half, the U.S. went on a 10-4 run with Leslie accounting for seven points as the U.S. pushed its lead to 41-31 with 6:59 remaining in the first half. Holding a seven-point, 53-46, advantage with 2:11 to play before half, the Americans scored the half's last four points to grab a 57-46 lead at halftime.
The USA scored the second half's first eight points to take command 65-46 and Brazil never again got closer than 13 points as the USA's offensive show went on to lead by as many as 31 points before finally settling for the 111-87 win.
In a contest in which fittingly all 12 U.S. players scored, the U.S. victorious cause was aided by 16 points from Sheryl Swoopes, 15 points from Ruthie Bolton, 12 points from Katrina McClain, while guards Teresa Edwards and Dawn Staley were credited with nine points apiece, and Edwards also added 10 assists.
Shooting a sizzling 66.2% (43-65 FGs) from the floor overall for the game and 50.0% (6-12 3pt FGs) from beyond the 3-point line, the USA defense limited Brazil to 47.1% (33-70 FGs) shooting overall, and just 33.3% (6- 218 3pt FGs) from 3-point. The defending world champions, Brazil's heralded backcourt duo of Hortnecia Marcari Oliva and Maria Paula Silva were held in check for most of the game. Hitting just 2-of-8 3-point tries combined, Paula finished with seven points and Hortencia had 11. Janeth Arcain paced Brazil's effort with 24 points.
The gold medal effort by the USA women was the United States' third in five Olympic competitions. The United States, which won the bronze medal in 1992, captured back-to-back gold medals at the 1988 and 1984 Summer Olympic Games.
The USA women joined the USA men as the 1996 Olympic basketball gold medalists, marking just the second time in Olympic history that the same country has swept the men's and women's gold medals. The USA also accomplished the feat at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
"Oh man, this is sweet, this is so sweet, you can't describe it,” said Edwards. “All these people here, it's incredible. We played right to the end.”
Asked if she would return in four years (she would), Edwards responded, "No, no, no, no. This is sweet right here. I'm going to go out like this."