Team USA into Quarterfinals with win over host-country Japan
The women’s national team ran its streak to 51 straight Olympic wins with a win over hosting-country Japan in the second game of Group B pool play.
Team USA beat Japan, 86-69, Thursday, July 29 from the Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo, Japan.
“Everybody wants to make us uncomfortable,” forward Breanna Stewart said. “Because obviously if we’re comfortable, we’re really hard to guard and really hard to stop.”
The win means an automatic appearance in the quarterfinals of this year’s Tokyo Olympics with a chance to still capture a seventh straight gold medal.
“I think we’ve learned over these last two games that these teams don’t stop,” Stewart said. “No matter if the game is possibly out of reach, they’re not going to stop no matter what because of the way everything breaks down with the point differential, standings and stuff like that.”
The team still has one more game of pool play before the knockout round begins next week.
France will be last next for Team USA Monday, Aug. 2 with tip-off set for 12:40 a.m. EST.
“France is a team that all of us respect,” Stewart said. “We know how good they are and can be. They can shoot the lights out, they have dominant post players in [forward] Gabby Williams bringing that intensity. It’s going to be a tough game.”
Despite coming out fast to the tune of a 7-0 start and eventually building the lead to eight, Japan’s three-point shooting flipped the momentum quickly. The lead was cut to two twice before it was cut to one, eventually Japan would take the lead, holding it going into the second quarter.
It was six made threes on nine attempts in the first quarter for Japan but a 1-for-11 stretch in the second quarter changed the complexion of the game.
Complete team-play proved to be the difference for the US as five different players scored in double-figures for head coach Dawn Staley and company.
The team tallied 30 assists on 37 made field goals, building an eventual lead as large as 20 points in the fourth quarter.
On the contrary, the US did commit 17 turnovers including one coming out of halftime up single-digits.
Forward A’ja Wilson posted a double-double for the second straight game with 20 points on 11 rebounds on 60% percent shooting to go along with three blocks.
“I think we’re trying to do our best to make A’ja feel comfortable,” Stewart said. “At the same time she’s coming in and she’s making hustle plays, she’s rebounding, she’s doing the little things that don’t always show up on the stat sheet.”
Stewart added 15 points and a team-high 13 rebounds with three made three-pointers.
Japan as a team had 25 rebounds.
“The rebounds are the thing that’s most important in the majority of these games,” Stewart said. “Because once you’re able to rebound the ball, you’re able to get out in transition and we can play the way that we want to play.”
Center Brittney Griner also added 15 points while guard Jewell Loyd chipped in with 12 and guard Diana Taurasi’s 11 rounded out the leading scorers.