USA Advances to FIBA World Cup Gold Medal Game With 93-77 Win Over Belgium.
For the second straight game at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup, the United States pulled away in the second half en route to a blowout victory.
In Saturday’s semifinals, the Americans ran away from Belgium in the third quarter for a 93-77 victory to advance to Sunday’s gold-medal game.
“It was a great game,” U.S. coach Dawn Staley said. “We were challenged by a really good Belgium team that didn’t want to go away. They played an incredible game on both sides of the ball. I thought our depth really allowed us to open the game up over a 40-minute period.”
Diana Taurasi led all scorers with 26 points while connecting on 7 of 13 shots, including 5 of 10 three-pointers.
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“This is the type of situation which (Taurasi) thrives on,” Staley said. “And she delivers, almost always. She has an impact like this on the game. Whether it’s shooting the ball the way she did, or distributing. She came up with big plays offensively and defensively, getting deflections and steals. That’s what you want a player like Diana to do in these types of situations.”
Storm standout Breanna Stewart added 20 points and seven rebounds for the U.S. team, which also received 16 points and six rebounds from Brittney Griner.
Led by Washington Mystics center Emma Meesseman, who scored 13 of her team-high 23 points in the first quarter, Belgium led 26-21 heading into the second.
“Emma is such a skilled player and you know that she is their go-to,” Mystics star Elena Delle Donne said. “I think she is averaging … like 16 shots a game. So we knew Emma is going to get hers and she makes everyone else around her better. But if we could just try to contain her and not let anyone else go off too much, we knew we would be OK.”
Taurasi added, “When you’re a good player, you’re a good player (and) you find a way to score. Emma’s one of the best players in the WNBA, the EuroLeague, in the world. I’ve shared the court with her in Russia and I know what she can do. When you have skills like the way she plays the game as a post player, it just makes her really hard to guard.”
The Americans led 40-39 at halftime.
In Friday’s quarterfinals, the U.S. team was up 27-23 at the break before outscoring Nigeria 44-17 in the second half for a comfortable 71-40 win.
In the semis, the United States outscored Belgium 33-18 in the third quarter to take a 73-57 lead into the fourth. Both teams scored 20 points in the final period.
The Americans (5-0) will go for an unprecedented third straight gold medal against Australia (4-0) or Spain (4-1) in the championship game.
“Something that gets overlooked in this USA Basketball experience is how difficult it is for us,” said Storm guard Sue Bird, who needs one assist to tie the U.S. World Cup record held by Staley. “I know you see the scores at times, and it can look like we’re just going out there and everything’s easy peasy. But, every other country? They’re trying to take us down, and we only have (a short) time to prepare. So when you enter these competitions, you have to be really focused, individually, as a team.
“We’re learning on the go. So, when you get to this point and you have a chance of winning a gold medal, you know that it’s an amazing opportunity, and it took a lot just to get here. So, you always want to capitalize on that. That’s how we’re all feeling. We know we came here for one reason, and we’re right on that doorstep, knocking, and we want to make the most of it.”