By Steve Keating
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – The United States steamrolled to their 47th straight Olympic win on Tuesday, routing Japan 110-64 to reach the semi-finals of the women’s basketball tournament and taking a step closer to a sixth consecutive gold medal.
With an overall record of 64-3, Olympic losses are rare for the U.S. but Japan could lay claim to one of them.
History, however, was of little help to the 16th-ranked Japanese who were going up against a powerhouse that has outscored opponents by a staggering 44.6 points per game, on average, in Rio.
As it has been all tournament, U.S. scoring was done by committee with seven players hitting double figures, led by Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore with 19 points apiece.
“That (Japan) is a good team and they make you work,” Taurasi told reporters. “The first half they were running us ragged a little bit.
“That was probably one of the toughest teams I have played against at an Olympics.
“They have got a system of playing that I am really familiar with and their style of game puts a lot of pressure on you as a team and we felt that pressure in the first half.”
It took the Americans nearly a full half to get their bearings, but once they did the result was predictable as U.S. shooters found their range, pouring in over 100 points for the fifth time in six games.
With two minutes to go in the opening half, energetic Japan had worked their up-tempo style to perfection, cutting the Olympic champions’ lead to 46-44, but the U.S. finished with a flurry, going on a 10-2 run to ease into the second half with a 10-point lead that would only grow.
As dominant as the U.S. have been, head coach Geno Auriemma issued an ominous warning that people have not seen the best of his team yet.
“They are improving every minute of every day,” said Auriemma. “We keep improving, there is no chance we peak too soon.
“It will be a month when the tournament ends that we have been together. Everything is fresh and moving in the right direction.”
The U.S. will now await the winner of Canada and France, who play later on Tuesday, while the other semi-final will feature Serbia and Spain.
Serbia had earlier upset second-ranked Australia 73-71 while Anna Cruz hit a last gasp buzzer-beater to lift Spain over Turkey 64-62.
(Editing by Bill Rigby)