The Standard Journal

USA steamrolls Japan to grab gold

- By Joseph Wilkinson

The U.S. is still a head above the competitio­n.

Behind its dominant frontcourt, the U.S. women’s basketball team won a seventh straight gold medal Sunday afternoon, defeating host nation Japan 90-75.

Brittney Griner and A’ja Wilson combined for 49 points, and the team blocked a stunning 12 Japanese shots, including seven in the first 15 minutes to set the tone. Griner had 10 points in the first quarter; Japan totaled 14.

If there were an Olympic MVP, it likely would’ve gone to the 6-foot-7 Phoenix Mercury star, who overpowere­d all internatio­nal competitor­s and racked up a team-leading 30 points in the gold medal game on 14 of 18 shooting. She also pulled in 5 rebounds for good measure.

Wilson, who won the real life 2020 WNBA MVP award, was the second-leading scorer with 19 points. She and Griner spent all game rolling to the hoop before pivoting around or powering through Japan’s defenders.

Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Chelsea Gray kept things humming in the backcourt, as the Americans assisted on 28 of their 37 made baskets. The win gave Taurasi and Bird their fifth Olympic gold medals, making them the most decorated basketball players of all time.

The 2018 WNBA MVP, Breanna Stewart, was the team’s leading rebounder, with 14 boards, while Griner and Wilson were pouring in buckets. The do-it-all forward also had five assists, four steals and three blocks.

Standing tall, but not tall enough, for the hosts was Maki Takada. Japan’s starting center is 6-foot flat and led the team with 17 points, but that still left her seven inches and 13 points shy of her counterpar­t Griner.

Japan had never medaled in basketball before taking home the silver Sunday. Their Cinderella run was powered by a fast pace and knockdown three-point shooting. However, like many a Cinderella, they eventually had no answer for their bigger, stronger opponents.

They could’ve benefited from a true home crowd, as few supporters were in attendance. At least one spectator was backing the visitors: Bird’s fiancée and fellow Olympian Megan Rapinoe.

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