U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team Opens With Record-Setting 121-56 Rout Of Senegal
In its first game of the 2016 Olympics – a 121-56 rout over Senegal (0-1) on Sunday afternoon at Deodoro Youth Arena in Rio de Janeiro – the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team (1-0) scored more points, won by more points (65) and dished out more assists (36) than any other team in U.S. women’s Olympic history.
The USA not only won big, it shot 64.8 percent from the field (46-71 FGs) and featured seven players in double-digit scoring, including Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury), who had 15 points and finished the game 5-of-7 from 3-point to tie her own U.S. women’s Olympic record for 3-pointers made. As a team, the USA tied its 3-point mark for 3s with 10.
“We talked in the locker room about how we want to play offensively, and how we want to attack and how we want to be difficult to play against,” said USA head coach Geno Auriemma (Connecticut). “That’s the area I think that we can take advantage of, the fact that we have a lot of players who can score. When we move the ball like that, when the ball doesn’t get stuck, the defense has got to guard it at all five spots on the floor, that’s just a tough task for anybody, really. Especially in the first half, we shot the lights out. We shot great. I told them at halftime that I was really disappointed with our offensive rebounding, and we better pick that up. Because I was really upset, because we missed three or four 2-point shots the whole first half (laughs). It was crazy. It was really fun to watch.”
Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx) started the USA off with a three-point play before Taurasi hit three 3-pointers in a row, and the USA led 12-2 just 2:47 seconds into the game. Led by Taurasi’s 12 points on 4-of-4 shooting from deep in the first quarter, nine different scorers helped the USA compile 35 points, while Senegal made just three field goals and two free throws, and the USA was up 35-9 after the first period.
“That was probably our biggest point going into the game was getting off to a good start,” Taurasi said. “We know how important momentum is in these tournaments, where if you get off to a good start, that kind of carries into the first game and into the next game, which is tomorrow. That was crucial, and I thought we did a good job of that.”
Tallying the USA’s first four points in the second quarter, Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm) had 10 of her points in the second period as the USA outscored Senegal 29-12 to take a 64-21 halftime lead.
By the midway point, 11 of the USA’s 12 players had scored, and Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), the only player without points in the first half, already had dished out seven of her eight assists.
“You never know how it’s going to go, exactly,” Bird said. “Obviously we’re the heavy favorite. But at this point, even now, some of these games, we feel like no matter who the opponent is, we’re just working on ourselves. Because even though the games have started, we’re here and we’re ready to go, it’s almost like a practice for us, because we need to still work on our offense, we need to still work on our defense, so with this game we were just really focused on ourselves, and were very happy with the outcome.”
The USA’s hot start saw it shoot an incredible 70.3 percent from the field (26-37 FGs) in the first half.
Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx), with nine points, and Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx), with seven points, combined to score more than half of the USA’s 30 points in the third quarter, which saw the USA’s margin grow to 94-38.
The USA reached triple digits at 7:57 in the fourth quarter when Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream) stole the ball and scored, and all 12 players had scored when Bird followed that up with a pull-up jumper at 7:39 that made it 102-41.
Stewart made a free throw with 3:36 remaining in the game to tie the USA’s previous scoring high and the play after that sank a 3-pointer to help the team surpass the record, which was 114 points (against China in 2012 and Spain in 1992).
Outscoring Senegal 27-18 in the fourth quarter, the USA earned a 121-56 win.
The previous scoring margin record for the U.S. Olympic women was 60 points, which was a 107-47 win over Zaire in 1996.
“I think it’s really cool to know that history went that far back, and we were able to break it today in our first game,” Stewart said. “And we hope to play even better in our next one. Obviously, we know we’re going for number six (gold medals), and a team of that caliber in ’96 started it all off, won the gold medal and now here we are in 2016 trying to keep that going.”
Fowles contributed 15 points; Stewart had 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting; Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury) tallied 14 points and seven rebounds; Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky) added 11 points and six assists; McCoughtry contributed 11 points and four assists; and Tina Charles (New York Liberty) had 10 points.
Also today in the USA’s Group B, Spain (1-0) topped Serbia (0-1) 65-59; while in Group A, Australia (1-0) will take on Turkey (0-1) at 4:30 p.m. (EDT), and France (1-0) will meet Belarus (0-1) at 6:45 p.m. (EDT).
On Aug. 6, Canada (1-0) easily won against China (0-1) 90-68 in Group B action; and Group A saw France beat Turkey 55-39, Australia defeated Brazil 84-66 and Japan (1-0) edged past Belarus 77-73.
The U.S. women continue preliminary round play against Spain at 11 a.m. (all times EDT) on Aug. 8, followed by Serbia at 2:30 p.m. on Aug. 10, Canada at 2:30 p.m. on Aug. 12 and a final preliminary round game against China at 11:15 a.m. 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 (DePaul), Cheryl Reeve (Minnesota Lynx) and Dawn Staley (South Carolina).