BY DOUG FEINBERG AP Basketball Writer
SAITAMA, Japan — A’ja Wilson scored 22 points and Breanna Stewart added 17 to help the U.S. beat France, 93-82, on Monday (Sunday night PT).
The win was the 52nd in a row for the U.S. dating to the bronze medal game of the 1992 Olympics. The U.S. went undefeated in group play – albeit not in the dominant fashion the team is used to – and advanced to the quarterfinals. The Americans (3-0) haven’t lost a game in group play since women’s basketball was added to the Olympics in 1976.
“It wasn’t a must-win, but we always want to win,” Stewart said. “To have that momentum going into the quarterfinals, this is where we start to peak.”
Even with the loss, France (1-2) advanced to the quarterfinals because of point differential with the other third-place teams. The team had to lose by 14 points or less to advance.
“We were completely aware,” Gabby Williams said of the margin France needed to advance. “It was 10 minutes by 10 minutes and trying to focus on staying with them. I think that was the goal.”
Both teams will find out later Monday night who they will play in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
France scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to take a 72-71 lead before the U.S. answered with 12 of the next 14 points to go up 83-74 with 5:45 left. Wilson had six points during the run.
Tina Charles’ 3-pointer made it 87-77, giving the U.S. its first double-digit lead of the game. France could get no closer than seven the rest of the way.
“We knew France had their backs against the wall,” Stewart said. “They had to play their best today and play within a certain margin to advance. We talked about it here and there. It’s super complicated. Most important thing for us was to win.”
Endene Miyem scored 15 to lead France.
The U.S. led 11-2 before France scored 16 of the next 18 points to go up 18-13. The French team led 22-19 after one quarter – the third consecutive game that the Americans trailed after the first 10 minutes. The U.S. got a scare in the first quarter when Taurasi left the game holding her right wrist. She was examined by the trainer and sat on the bench for the remainder of the quarter before returning with 4:20 left in the second period.
The lead exchanged hands for most of the second quarter as the U.S. continued to pound the ball inside to its dominant bigs of Wilson, Brittney Griner, Sylvia Fowles and Charles.
The Americans led 50-44 at the half.
The U.S. has now beaten France in each of the past three Olympics. … Diggins, who turned 31 on Monday, returned to the court after she missed the last game after was banged up in practice. Diggins had three points. … The U.S. came into the game averaging a tournament-worst 21 turnovers per game. The team committed just 12 against France.
A lot of attention has been on Sue Bird and Taurasi going for a fifth Olympic gold medal. Fowles is playing in her fourth Olympics. She is tied with Griner for third on the U.S. Olympic blocked shot list with 13, one behind longtime L.A. Spark Candace Parker. Lisa Leslie (Morningside High, USC, Sparks) is the all-time leader with 37 blocks.
: 19 PTS | 60 FG% | 13 REB
: 20 PTS | 60 FG% | 10 REB
: 22 PTS | 75 FG% | 7 REB
— FIBA #Tokyo2020 (@FIBA) August 2, 2021
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