SAITAMA –The United States can do something that no other women’s basketball team can do at the Tokyo Games: get former WNBA MVPs Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles off the bench.
Americans’ depth in the post continues to make the difference for the United States
“We know that is the strength of our team at the moment, and we are trying to keep them as much as possible,” said USA coach Dawn Staley. “And luckily for us, they delivered.”
Charles and Fowles answered the call on Monday when the United States needed them in a 93-82 victory over France. Charles scored eight of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, including two to three points after the United States led 72-71 early in the period.
“It was just a preparation and an opportunity,” Charles said of his strong fourth quarter. “Do just what we needed.”
A’ja Wilson scored 22 points and Breanna Stewart added 17 as the Americans (3-0) outscored France 46-30 in the paint – and finished the group game 3-0. Fowles made his presence felt on the inside, finishing with nine points, including a 5-for-5 on the free throw line. The victory was the 52nd in a row for the United States since the bronze medal match at the 1992 Olympics.
The United States advanced to the quarter-finals undefeated – but not in the dominant way the team is used to. The Americans have not lost a group game since women’s basketball was added to the Olympics in 1976.
“It wasn’t a must win, but we still want to win,” said Stewart, who also had seven rebounds and seven assists. “To have that momentum towards the quarter-finals, that’s where we start to peak.”
Even with the defeat, France (1-2) qualified for the quarter-finals due to a point differential with the other third-place teams. The team had to lose by 14 points or less to advance.
“We were very much aware,” said Gabby Williams of the margin France needed to progress. “It was 10 minutes out of 10 minutes and I was trying to focus on staying with them. I think that was the point. “
The two teams will know later on Monday night who they will play against in the quarter-finals on Wednesday.
France scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to take a 72-71 lead before the United States responded with 12 of the next 14 points to climb 83-74 with 5:45 left. Wilson had six points during the race.
Charles’ 3-point pointer increased the score to 87-77, giving the United States their first double-digit lead of the game. France couldn’t get closer than seven the rest of the way.
“We knew France had their backs to the wall,” said Stewart. “They had to play their best today and play with a certain margin to advance. We talked about it here and there. It’s super complicated. The most important thing for us was to win.
Endene Miyem scored 15 to lead France.
BUMPS AND INJURIES
The United States was scared in the first quarter when Taurasi left the game holding his right wrist. She was examined by the coach and sat on the bench for the remainder of the quarter before returning with 4:20 to go in the second period.
With Taurasi in charge, the France team led 22-19 after a quarter – the third game in a row the Americans trailed after the opening 10 minutes.
FEATURED FOR FRANCE
Williams was playing in his first Olympics for France and did well against some of his former UConn teammates. She had six interceptions and five rebounds to go with 10 points, Williams’ mother is French which allowed her to play with the French national team.
Charles hit the first three 3-pointers of his Olympic career. She improved her shooting to 3 points during the WNBA season this year, being 37% behind the arc.
“I’m just thankful that Dawn allows us to be ourselves while we’re on this team,” Charles said.
The United States has now beaten France in each of the last three Olympics. … Diggins, who turned 31 on Monday, returned to the pitch after missing the last game after being hit in practice. Diggins had three points. … The United States entered the game with an average of 21 tournament turnovers per game. The team have only entered 12 against France.
Much attention has been paid to Sue Bird and Taurasi chasing a fifth Olympic gold medal. Fowles is playing in his fourth games.
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