Rio De Janeiro: Staking its claim to rank among the greatest women’s basketball teams ever assembled, the United States captured a sixth consecutive Olympic gold medal and eighth in nine tries today.
An overwhelming 101-72 victory over Spain in the final stretched the US Olympic win streak to 49 games since a 1992 semi-final loss.
The Americans improved to 89-1 over the past 20 years in global tournaments.
“I’m pretty sure we demonstrated we are one of the best teams ever,” US guard Sue Bird said.
Diana Taurasi and Lindsay Whalen led the US squad with 17 points each in the final while Maya Moore added 14.
“It’s pretty incredible,” Taurasi said. “We had a goal to win the gold medal but there’s something more to it than that.
“It’s not about one person, one coach — it’s about, ‘How can we make this the best basketball team ever?'”
US stars Taurasi, Bird and Tamika Catchings matched an Olympic basketball record with their fourth gold medals each, tying ex-US standouts Lisa Leslie and Teresa Edwards for most golds by a player, man or woman.
“Super special,” Moore said. “I feel so privileged to have those leaders ahead of me, to watch them, play alongside them, to just learn so that in the future when I’m in moments where leadership is needed, I can call on memories I’ve had with them.”
The only longer team Olympic gold-medal run than the US women’s six is that of the US men’s basketball team, which took the first seven Olympic titles.
“That’s unreal,” said US forward Angel McCoughtry.
Spain’s silver is the first Olympic women’s basketball medal secured by the Spaniards, whose best prior showing was fifth in 1992 and 2008.
“It’s historic for our country. For me, it’s a dream come true,” said Alba Torrens, who led Spain with 18 points.
“This medal pays off so much work these past years.”
Serbia beat France 70-63 in the bronze medal game.
The championship game was a rematch of the 2014 Women’s Basketball World Cup final won by the Americans 77-64, but it more resembled the US women’s 103-63 rout of Spain in a Rio group stage encounter as the US women improved to 10-0 all-time against their European rivals.
“It’s a Dream Team, best team in the world,” Spain guard Silvia Dominguez said.
“In a few years maybe we can beat them,” said Spanish forward Laura Quevedo. “Right now it’s a Dream Team.”
Torrens scored 10 points in the first eight minutes to give her team its largest lead at 17-14.
The Americans answered with a 10-0 run for a 24-17 edge on a 3-pointer from Bird, back from a right knee injury.
Astou Ndour’s 3-pointer pulled Spain within 27-24 but the US responded with a 14-2 run for a 41-26 edge. Taurasi made two 3-pointers in the spurt and Moore and Breanna Stewart each added four points.
Whalen sank a fast break layup at the half-time buzzer to give the Americans their largest lead yet at 49-32 and Spain never trailed by less again.
Dominguez sank a half-court 3-pointer at the third-period buzzer, but it only pulled Spain within 81-49 as the Americans would not be denied.