TOKYO – In the end, they know who they were.
Even as the U.S. women’s basketball team navigated through some uneven stretches at these Olympics, they had an identity that they were confident would carry them to a seventh straight gold medal. It was built around the simplest thing in basketball: Feeding the post and letting big players beat little players.
And against Japan in Sunday’s gold medal game, it was really all Team USA needed to finish off the tournament with a drama-free 90-75 victory.
In a performance as focused and business-like as you’ll ever see on the offensive end, Team USA exploited its tremendous size advantage relentlessly against a Japanese team that didn’t have any answers. Led by post players Brittney Griner and A’Ja Wilson, who towered over a frontcourt with no player taller than 6-foot-1, the U.S. simply could not be stopped from getting the right shots for the right players.
Brittney Griner reacts to a play in Team USA’s win over Japan.
It ended with Griner scoring 30 points on 14-of-18 shots, Wilson adding 19 and five blocked shots and the Americans as a team shooting 54 percent. Breanna Stewart was also a major mismatch problem on both ends with 14 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and three blocks.
Japan actually did well to keep it as close as 50-39 at halftime on the strength of six made 3-pointers, but the pressure to generate and make open shots was too great. Eventually, the U.S. took full control midway through the third quarter with an 18-6 run.
Guards Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi each scored seven points in their fifth and likely final Olympics, closing the chapter on a run of historic dominance with USA Basketball.
“Let me just say it’s 20 years of sacrifice, of putting everything aside and just wanting to win,” Taurasi said. “It’s never easy playing on this team, the pressure. I’m just happy this team found a way to win.”
Added Bird: “It’s not just about us, it’s about all the players who set the stage or who are on it right now.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: USA women’s basketball tops Japan to win gold medal at Tokyo Olympics