The American women’s basketball team might be the fiercest squad competing at the Tokyo Olympics.
Early Monday, Team USA knocked off France to win Group B and qualify for the quarterfinals. The women stretched their Olympic winning streak to an incredible 52 straight games. It came on the same day as the American women’s soccer team lost its semifinal game to Canada.
The women’s basketball team’s 93-82 victory over France was close, by their own lofty standards.
As the Team USA tweeted from the Tokyo Olympics: “On to the next.”
Competition Is Getting Closer at Tokyo Olympics
Winning for the women might be getting mundane. But in this tournament, some teams did push Team USA. After all, Nigeria owned a brief lead in a game last week. And on Monday, the French were ahead after the first quarter. Sometimes great teams need a jolt to reset their attention.
Let’s turn it to Dawn Staley, who is coaching the women at the Tokyo Olympics. Coincidentally, as a point guard, Staley was on three gold medal winning squads.
“Here’s the thing: We take everybody’s best effort,” Staley told reporters. “A marathon isn’t won in the first mile, and the first quarter is the first mile to us. We get everybody’s best shot; the adrenaline is flowing on both sides. It’s hard to create separation.”
Team USA relied on its inside power game to get the upper hand on the French. A’Ja Wilson, the most recent WNBA MVP, led the Americans with 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Breanna Stewart scored 17. Tina Charles notched 15 and Brittney Griner scored 11. No opponent at the Tokyo Olympics sports a frontcourt that can counter the Americans. There’s too much talent and overwhelming depth.
Australia is next up for Team USA. The quarterfinal match is scheduled to start early Wednesday, Eastern time. Australia finished third in its group but still earned a spot in the knockout rounds for a medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
The competition this year is closer than it was five years ago at the 2016 Rio Games. There, Team USA won by an average of 19 points. The women in Tokyo haven’t won by such overwhelming margins. Games are closer, signaling the rest of the world is trying to catch up.
Men’s Basketball Faces Spain in Quarterfinals
Still, Team USA is faring better than their male counterparts. The men lost their opener to France, their first Olympic defeat since 2004. They regrouped and earned a berth in the quarterfinals. The men play Spain in Tuesday’s matchup. Team USA is the three-time defending Olympic champion. Spain won the 2019 World Cup.
The two teams have played some terrific games, so the Tokyo Olympics quarterfinal could be one of the best, yet. It’s just a bit early for the squads to see each other. The Americans have won 16 of 18 against Spain in international competition. But the Americans won by six to beat Spain in the semis in Rio in 2016 and by seven to win the gold medal at the 2012 London Games. Team USA also held off Spain in the gold medal game at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.