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Women’s national team runs Olympic streak to 50 with win over Nigeria

The US women’s basketball national team has run a win streak so impressive it has lasted nearly three decades.


After a 81-72 win over Nigeria, Team USA now has won 50 straight Olympic games.


“At the end of the day we knew our standards,” forward A’ja Wilson said. “We knew that we had to go out there and play our hardest game and it wasn’t going to be pretty.”


The US women haven’t lost since 1992 during an Olympic run in Barcelona.


That also marks the beginning of six straight Olympic gold medals for Team USA.


The pursuit of a seventh straight Olympic gold medal continues with a contest against the hosting country of Japan.


The game is scheduled for Friday, July 30 with tip-off set for 9:40 p.m.


“I didn’t get an opportunity to watch [Japan vs. France],” Wilson said. “But we know from playing Japan in the past, they’re a very quick, speedy team and I’m not surprised they’re successful in that.”


Team USA used a 23-0 second quarter run to take control of a game where it trailed by three after the first 10 minutes.


Nigeria built a lead as large as five points before the game-changing run where the US built a lead as large as 18.


“The biggest thing for us is just to win,” Wilson said. “Do whatever we can, whatever it takes to win. Go out there, take care of business and don’t lose sight of who we are -- ever.”


That lopsided run where Nigeria was scoreless lasted about seven minutes.


“We just went out there and really tried to communicate and focus on the defensive side of it,” Wilson said. “If we can slow them down and rebound the basketball, then we can just play our game and our talent speaks for itself.”


That defense combined with a potent offense helped grow the lead to 22 points in the third quarter.


This came after a rough first quarter where Team USA committed four turnovers in the first three and a half minutes of the game against Nigeria’s press.


“It’s our first game together and it’s on the biggest stage,” Wilson said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be pretty in the beginning, we’re all getting out jitters but once we kind of got back into it and we understood who we are and what we stand for and the standard we have to play at we just get into a groove.”


Nigeria didn't only have that boost at the start of the game but at the conclusion as well.


A 12-0 run in the fourth quarter cut the lead to just eight points with 3:19 remaining in the contest.


“I think the biggest thing that blares out on the stat sheet is of course the turnovers,” Wilson said. “I think that’s something that we can fix just by playing together for more games.”


Wilson led the way with a double-double scoring 19 points and pulling in 13 rebounds, both were game-highs.


It was the Olympic debut for the reigning WNBA MVP.


“I was really nervous today,” Wilson said. “I talked to my parents and everything and just let them calm me down and I think my teammates made me feel really comfortable. Enough that I could be comfortable and just be me.”


Three players recorded at least 10 rebounds on the night while center Brittney Griner also had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.


Guard Sue Bird had a highlight reel night despite not scoring a single point.


Bird dished out 10 assists, surpassing 100 Olympic assists for her career in the process.


There was a stretch in the third quarter where Bird completed a lob to Griner for two points then threw a full-court outlet pass to Wilson for the score.


Lastly, she caught Seattle teammate Breanna Stewart in stride for another basket.


Those three plays happened consecutively for Bird and Team USA.


She also hauled in four rebounds and had a steal.


Guard Diana Taurasi scored 10 points including some timely buckets for Team USA.


With the team struggling to start the game, Taurasi scored the team’s first field goal nearly four minutes into the first quarter.


In addition, she made a three-point basket to give the United States a 28-25 lead in the midst of their 23-0 run that changed the complexion of the game.


Editor’s Note: Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike along with Elizabeth Williams all had their petitions to play for Team Nigeria denied after not making the roster for Team USA. All three own dual citizenship in both Nigeria and the United States.


According to the Olympic committee, the petitions were denied citing “significant involvement with Team USA over the last 10 years.”


This decision comes despite all athletes being granted permission to play for Nigeria by Team USA.


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