U.S. women win 5th gold in row
LONDON -- The names change, not the results. Just call the U.S. women's basketball team Olympic champion -- again.
The Americans won their fifth straight gold medal Saturday, routing France 86-50 and putting more distance between themselves and the rest of the world heading into the 2016 Rio Games.
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"It just shows the depth and talent in our country. Women's basketball, it's our sport -- it's our sport," said Diana Taurasi, who has been a part of the last three gold medals. "We grew up playing since we were little and give it every single little bit of energy we have."
Candace Parker scored 21 points, including eight straight during the game-changing run in the second quarter as the U.S. won its 41st straight Olympic game.
This one was special.
Taurasi, who said she doesn't get emotional, cried receiving her gold medal and then paraded around draped in an American flag.
"A little trip down memory lane," Taurasi said. "The track record was going through my head. My parents, Coach was there. It was just a lot of things hit me at once and that's what happened."
The winning streak started in the bronze medal game in 1992. In that stretch, the Americans have won by nearly 30 points a game. Only one team has stayed within single digits of them, and they've lost just once in major international competitions, to Russia in the semifinals of the 2006 world championship.
Coach Geno Auriemma didn't want to get drawn into the debate of where this team ranks among the five that have won the gold.
"The United States has had great teams since 1996 and we are just another one on the list," he said. "We accomplished the same thing they did and I don't know if that separates us. I think it just makes us equal."
Teresa Edwards, Dawn Staley, Sheryl Swoopes and Lisa Leslie got the amazing run started, and Taurasi, Sue Bird and Tamika Catchings have continued it.
With young stars Parker, Maya Moore and Tina Charles a big part of the success in London it doesn't look like the run will end anytime soon.
"The players give back. You have players coming back for a third Olympics to show the younger players what it takes to win a gold medal," said Parker, a two-time Olympian. "I learned a lot from Tina Thompson, Lisa Leslie, Katie Smith and now Dee, Tamika, Sue. It's just the passing down of what it takes to win. That commitment to USA Basketball."
Catchings said the Americans "just wanted to keep that legacy going."
Edwards, a five-time Olympian, said no worry there.
"The legacy is real," said Edwards, who had a front-row seat Saturday night. "What these kids have been doing is amazing. Without much time to practice. In the middle of the WNBA season. And they look good. It's like the whole world knows who we are. I'm really proud of them.
"They're definitely among some of the best" U.S. teams.
The U.S. faced its only challenge of the London Games when Australia took a four-point halftime lead. It was the first time in 12 years that the Americans had been trailing at the half. There was no panic or worry. They just stepped up their defense and vanquished the Australians, winning by 13 points.
"It's not easy to just be put together and be expected to win a gold medal," Taurasi said. "It's a special feeling."
France, which came into the gold medal game unbeaten, stayed with the U.S. for the first 12 minutes before Parker took over. She scored eight straight points during a 13-2 run that gave the U.S. a 37-23 advantage. Twice the 6-foot-4 Parker grabbed the rebound on the defensive end and dribbled up through the defense scoring on the other.
While Parker -- who also had 11 rebounds -- was providing the offense, the Americans turned up their defense, holding France to just one basket over the final 7:25 of the half.
"We always felt like as long as we played our best ... we'd be all right," Bird said.
The U.S. led by 12 at the half and poured it on in the third quarter. France got within 41-31 but the U.S. scored 13 of the next 14 points any thoughts of a monumental upset were forgotten.
On one sequence, Catchings got a steal and passed to Bird, who hit Moore in perfect stride for a finger-roll lay-in down the lane. It only got worse from there for France, which was making its Olympic debut.
The Americans bottled up France's flashy point guard Celine Dumerc, who made only field goal in the first half and finished with eight points.
"I'm just happy to have this medal around my neck," Dumerc said of her silver. "We lost to a very good team and we made history for women's basketball in our country."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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