August 4, 2021 

Two wins from gold: How the U.S. is coming together

Olympic semifinal against Serbia looms next

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Team USA (Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images)

The rocky starts that plagued the U.S. women’s basketball team during its group stage games were long forgotten on Wednesday.

The team that trailed following the first quarter before wins over Nigeria, Japan and France, pounced on a 26-12 lead after one, en route to a 79-55 domination of Australia in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics. Breanna Stewart paced the team with 23 points as in avenged a three-point loss two weeks ago in exhibition.

The previous day, Diana Taurasi spoke of turning up the intensity when elimination is on the line, and she and her teammates continued to deliver, limiting the Opals to 30 percent shooting and keeping them off the podium for the second-straight Olympics.

“You see improvements each game,” said U.S. guard Chelsea Gray, who passed a game-high eight assists versus Australia. “We’re able to get practice time, we’re able to prepare and go onto the next game. It’s kind of a laser focus that each game is important. We don’t want to look too far in advance. We do what we have to do to win that game, and the rest will take care of itself. That has been our mindset.”

The USA huddles up (Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images)

In addition to Stewart, Gray’s ball movement highly involved frontcourt players Brittney Griner and A’ja Wilson, who scored 15 and 10. Stewart and Griner combined to go 14-of-18 from the field.

“My teammates know a pass may be coming at any moment,” Gray continued, “and I think they are ready for it. It’s a matter of me executing a play at the right place at the right time. I think we were just playing off each other super well. You could see the chemistry and camaraderie just flowing, especially right off the tip off.”

The win for the U.S. fell 25 years to the day of the 1996 team winning the gold medal over Brazil in Atlanta, the first of its six-consecutive Olympic championships.

“Legacy and a standard is set,” Gray said when asked what comes to mind with USA Basketball. “A lot of great people have come through this program, It’s a live-or-die situation and we knew we were coming to play today.”

The U.S. will meet Serbia in the semifinals at 12:40 a.m. ET on Friday/ 9:40 p.m. PT on Thursday. Serbia scored the game’s final seven points to defeat undefeated China 77-70 in the first quarterfinal on Wednesday. Jelena Brooks and Sonja Vasić led the European champion Serbians with 18 and 16 points.

On the other side of the bracket, Kim Mestdagh missed a potential game-winning jump shot at the buzzer, and Japan continued its inspired run with an 86-85 win over Belgium. Mestdagh had buried seven three-pointers in the game, the same amount as Japan’s Yuki Miyazawa. The hosts will meet France in the semifinal, who defeated Spain in a similar fashion. Maite Cazorla missed a game-tying shot with three seconds left in the 67-64 French win.

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.

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