Defense Leads U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team Past Canada 81-51
Allowing Canada (3-1) just six points in the second quarter, the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team (4-0) pulled away for an 81-51 win on Friday afternoon at Deodoro Youth Arena in Rio de Janeiro.
The USA held Canada to just 32.8 percent from the field (19-58 FGs) and 29.4 percent from 3-point (5-17 FGs).
“They’re not going to let you score100 points,” said USA head coach Geno Auriemma. “They’re holding teams to like 38 percent shooting and we shot 57 percent. Some teams, their style of play isn’t necessarily going to allow that. They maximize every shot clock opportunity. They’re going to run their offense over and over again, and they’re disciplined, smart and tough, and defensively they’re really physical. We shot the ball lousy in the first half. We didn’t make a shot … Dee didn’t make a shot, and we talked about that, needing other people to step up and make some shots other than her. And we did.”
Maya Moore, who grabbed eight rebounds, had four assists and was 4-of-4 from the line, and Diana Taurasi, who was 4-of-5 from 3-point, led the USA with 12 points each, while Tina Charles added 10 points and Sue Bird dished out nine assists. No Canadian player reached double-figure scoring.
Taurasi has made 18 3-pointers in her first four games in Rio and now owns the USA’s single Olympic competition record for made 3s, breaking the former record of 15 set in 1996 by Ruthie Bolton and tied by Taurasi in 2012.
The game started off close, with the USA leading just 18-16 after the first quarter. While the USA got the ball inside to get six points apiece from Brittney Griner and Charles in the first period, Canada was helped by an 11-5 rebounding advantage, including five offensive boards.
“They are a disciplined team with what they are trying to do on offense,” said Moore. “They cut a lot, they move a lot. So, you have to constantly be on your toes. They have players who can do several things, move the ball, drive, get fouled. We had our hands full when we were playing them in the half court. We were just trying to communicate and use our athleticism and our versatility to make some of their offense a little bit harder to run.”
Canada made a free throw to start the second quarter, but the USA defense was stingy and forced nine turnovers and allowed just six points in the period. On the offensive end, Moore tallied eight points in the second and Taurasi made two 3s to add six points, and the USA built a 36-22 lead at halftime.
At the midway point, 20 of the USA’s points had been scored in the interior, and 13 were scored off of a fastbreak.
“I think we played really hard today on defense,” said Bird. “I think people fall in love with points at times, but it’s our defense that’s been the most consistent. Tonight was a good example of that. It wasn’t that we couldn’t score, we weren’t scoring at the rate that you saw the first three games. It was our defense that was there for us to rely on. And it’s not easy. Especially against a team like Canada. They make you work. We worked hard.”
Canada never again threatened the USA, which outscored its opponent 24-14 in the third to lead 24-14 headed into the final period. Moore had eight of her points in the third quarter, and Taurasi had two more 3-pointers.
By the end of the third quarter, the USA was back on top in the rebounding column, 31-22, and it finished the game with a 43-25 advantage on the glass.
The fourth quarter saw the USA outscore Canada 21-15 in the fourth quarter to bring the score to its 81-51 final.
Also today in the USA’s Group B, Serbia (1-3) beat China (1-3) 80-72, while Spain (2-1) will play Senegal (0-3) at 4:45 p.m. (EDT).
The U.S. women have final preliminary round game against China at 11:15 a.m. (EDT) on Aug. 14.
The top four finishing teams from each preliminary round group advance to the quarterfinals on Aug. 16.
The semifinals will be played on Aug. 18, and the finals are on Aug. 20.
The USA’s assistant coaches are Doug Bruno, Cheryl Reeve and Dawn Staley.