US women’s headed to gold-medal game after win over Serbia
The streak has been pushed to 54 straight wins for the US women’s national team but it's another streak in grasp that the team is focused on.
“We’re finding a way to win,” head coach Dawn Staley said. “There’s something good about what we’ve done. Our defensive effort was locked in, we made it really hard for Serbia to get open looks and clean looks.” Team USA beat Serbia, 79-59, from the Saitama Super Arena in the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympics.
Now the team will be headed to it’s seventh straight gold-medal game in search of a historic seventh straight gold medal.
Six players on this roster will be playing in their first gold-medal game.
“I think any chance to get to play on an Olympic team with so many seasoned players, it can only help you,” Staley said. “To be around them in film sessions and to be around them in practices, the way they communicate with some of the first-timers, they are going to take that back with them on their WNBA teams and I’m sure share it with other young players who have aspirations of playing in an Olympic games and on an Olympic team.”
The Americans will now have to await the winner of France and Japan before knowing its gold medal opponent.
In order to reach the gold-medal game, Team USA had to overcome a shaky second and third quarters against Serbia.
After building a lead as large as 15 points in the first quarter, the US was held to just five points through the first seven and a half minutes.
“Offensively, we were bothered,” Staley said. “Part of that was us and part of that was Serbia just applying a lot of pressure to us -- we just didn’t handle that well. Hopefully, we’ll find a way to clean that up when we take on France or Japan in the gold-medal game.”
Serbia cut the deficit down to as little as nine points but it would be back to 18 before halftime after an 11-2 run to end the first half.
The team’s steady defense throughout allowed for those offensive lulls to not be too detrimental for Team USA.
“Obviously, we didn’t look our sharpest today,” Staley said. “We didn’t put up a whole lot of points but we didn’t give up a whole lot of points. I just feel like once we hit the quarterfinals our players really just look different. There’s a different focus, there’s a different dynamic to them.”
Serbia did not make its first three-point attempt until 6:21 to go in the second quarter.
Center Brittney Griner had a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Forward Breanna Stewart also recorded a double-double, posting 12 points and 10 rebounds. “Stewy is a coach’s dream to be quite honest,” Staley said. “She has a high basketball IQ that can back it up with the skillset and the ability to just make plays on both sides of the basketball. You stick her in not her natural position, playing the small forward and she makes it look like its her natural position. Great players are able to do that.”
Team USA outrebounded Serbia, 46-39, and built a lead as large as 25 before the end of the game.
Guard Chelsea Gray scored seven of her 14 points in the fourth quarter and finished the night shooting 5-of-6 from the field including 2-for-2 from three.
Again, every member of Team USA played with all but two players recording points.