The USA team takes a 19-game World Cup winning streak into its matchup with Nigeria, which makes its first quarterfinals appearance.
The USA Basketball Women’s National team is three wins away from an unprecedented third straight FIBA World Cup championship.
The USA team, which won three group-round games by an average of 19.3 points, faces Nigeria (3-1), a first-time FIBA World Cup quarterfinalist, 3:30 a.m. PT Friday at Santiago Martin Arena in San Cristobal de la Laguna, Canary Islands. ESPN3 will televise the game.
With a win, USA will face Belgium or France in Saturday’s semifinals.
“There is some pressure, because now we get into where we are one-and-done,” Team USA coach Dawn Staley said. “There is pressure, but I think how you handle pressure is you stay as close to what you have been doing from the time that we have been together, all the way through.
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“The players understand where we are. We’ve all been here before, and the ones who haven’t, they need to follow the lead of the people that have been here, and they’ll be in a good place.”
USA, which has a 19-game winning streak in the tournament, faces Nigeria for the second time in the World Cup. In 2006, Team USA won 79-46 in a group phase victory.
“They’ve been playing unbelievably,” Team USA veteran guard Diana Taurasi said. “I’ve watched a couple of their games. They play with such energy, such passion, and they’re doing a lot of things on the court that make it difficult for their opponents.
“It’s going to be a challenge. Every game, once you get to the quarterfinals, is hard. They’re there for a reason and we’re going to have to play really well to win.”
Forward Breanna Stewart, who led the Storm to a WNBA title, leads the USA team in scoring (16.3 points per game), rebounding (6.7) and blocks (4).
Storm guard Jewell Loyd is averaging 5.7 points during her debut with the USA national team
In its previous outing, USA beat Latvia 102-76 on Tuesday without Sue Bird, who was held out to rest. The 37-year-old guard is expected to return for the quarterfinals.
“One thing about USA Basketball that’s always been nice is that you come here and you know the load is going to be distributed evenly,” Taurasi said. “You know everyone’s going to have a little piece.
“Sue and I, we always tell that to the younger kids who come into camp and try to do a lot. Literally, I come down, I pass the ball to the best post players in the world and I wait for an open 3. That has been my job with USA Basketball for 12 years. And I’m completely content with it.”