August 2, 2021
Another comeback for U.S. to close Tokyo Olympic group play
Next up: Australia in the quarterfinals
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The U.S. women’s basketball team is returning to the Olympic quarterfinals, albeit not as the juggernaut it had been it past years. For the third time in as many group stage games, the U.S. overcame a deficit at the end of the first quarter and trailed France, 72-71, with eight minutes left before finding a 93-82 win on Monday in Saitama, Japan.
The draw for Wednesday’s quarterfinal matchups will feature the U.S. versus Australia, China meeting Serbia, Japan against Belgium, and Spain taking on France. Australia received the final third-place qualifying spot over Canada, based on point differential.
As she did in the first two games, A’ja Wilson led the U.S. in scoring, this time with 22 points, joining Emma Meesseman and Astou Ndour as the only players in the tournament to average more than 20 points per game. The towers of Breanna Stewart, Tina Charles and Brittney Griner all scored in double figures against France, making a facile day for point guard Jewell Loyd. The first-time Olympian dished eight assists.
“The post players made themselves available, so it was easy to get a quick outlet there,” Loyd said. “Defensively, I think we went from switching everything, they were doing a lot of curls, and the middle of the paint was open a little bit. Once we started to switch, we were able to have different matchups. Then, it really went down to rebounding, as well. They had some long rebounds, so we were making sure we were getting a hand on them and limit them to one shot.”
As the rest of field continues to lessen the gap with the U.S., six French players scored in double figures, with a high of 15 from Endene Miyem, the 33-year-old former Minnesota Lynx signee.
“We just wanted to get stops,” Loyd continued, “that’s the biggest thing we talked about. When you have great leadership and can rely on Sue (Bird) and Dee (Diana Taurasi) constantly giving you advice, it helps you figure things out. We needed this though, we want to be playing our best basketball in the next couple days and achieve our goals.”
In other Group B action, Japanese point guard Rui Machida equaled Teresa Edwards’ 25-year-old Olympic record of 15 assists in a single game in her team’s 102-83 win over Nigeria. Japan was 19-of-39 from downtown in the win.
“She’s extremely fast,” said Loyd, who matched up with Machida in last week’s group stage. “Her ability to change speeds and directions, get into the paint and have people collapse, it opens up her ability to pass. We definitely noticed that when we played. She’s such a great player for Japan, we definitely have a lot of respect for her. Her ability to find open players is phenomenal.”
Written by Scott Mammoser
Scott Mammoser has covered major international events for FIBA, World Athletics and the International Skating Union. He has been to six Olympics and traveled to more than 90 countries.