Although they are undefeated in the preliminary rounds of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Team U.S.A. is not perfect, but they are still the best. I have broken down the game plan for how to beat this squad. It remains to be seen whether anyone can do it.
U.S.A. vs. France
The U.S. started the game strong with a 9-2 run, but yet again, the team faltered in the first period. France responded with a 9-0 run and ended the first quarter with a 22 to 19 lead.
France knocked down a high percentage of their shots, pressured the ball on defense, and had a strong demeanor throughout. Their confidence was visible as they made 17 of their first 31 shots and started 4/5 from three in the second quarter.
What France Was Fighting For
Every time the U.S. looked like they were going to pull away, France responded. They played with pace, confidence, and intensity like they were playing for more than a win.
Heading into the night, France hung onto a narrow lead over Canada in point differential to qualify for Olympic Quarterfinals. With a +21 point differential compared to Canada’s +7, they could not lose by more than 13 to qualify.
France had a balanced attack with six players scoring double-figures, led by 12 points and six boards from Sandrine Gruda. With four of her six rebounds being offensive, she displayed hustle all over the floor.
Despite the loss, the French team secured their spot in the top eight.
But No Match for the U.S.A. Bigs
Again in prelims, the U.S. defense stepped up after one quarter as the French went cold. After starting the game 5/9 from three, France finished the game 7/24 from downtown. They shot 53.1% (26/49) from two-point territory, but their 29.2% from three cost them the game. They relinquished the lead to the U.S. with 3:18 left in the first half, fittingly on a Breanna Stewart layup.
That layup was a part of Stewart’s 14-point second-quarter outburst. She played all but two minutes, totaling 17 points and seven rebounds on 50% shooting. She was a steady presence throughout for Team U.S.A.
Alongside Stewart, Tina Charles and A’ja Wilson were magnificent. Charles proved effective in the interior, stretching out France’s defense and the U.S. lead. She shot 3/3 from downtown to go off for 15 points and five assists in her 20 minutes of action. Eight of her 15 came in the fourth quarter when they needed her most.
Wilson continued her dominance, finishing with 22 points and seven rebounds on 75% shooting. She shot 9/12 and was perfect from the line in her four attempts. She was efficient from everywhere: as the roller in the pick-and-roll, from the elbow off inbounds passes, and inside. Wilson has been a superstar for Team U.S.A. in all three of its prelim games.
The three bigs Coach Dawn Staley relied upon most, Stewart, Wilson, and Charles, showed off the strengths of Team U.S.A. Rolling out dominant bigs is not surprising, but playing versatile bigs is a new approach for Team U.S.A. That versatility made the difference in a close game. The 93-82 final score allowed France to advance to the top-eight. And the U.S. showed off its incredible talent, depth, and strength to earn the top seed in the Olympics.
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Team U.S.A. Has What it Takes – Mental Toughness
For a team as great as Team U.S.A. — with its shooters, defenders, ballhandlers, bigs, and versatility — their greatest strength is their mental toughness.
Challenged early by the motivated and focused French players, the U.S. was unphased. For starters, France was playing great defense by pressuring the ball, rotating, and forcing turnovers. They also shot nearly 55% percent from the floor to start the game. That’s a daunting combination to go up against, especially when France needed the win more.
The U.S. did not back down. In fact, they seemed to welcome it. They responded with improved defense, shooting 56.5% including 45% from three, and they stuck together through the challenge. Starters sacrificed minutes, bench players exceeded their roles, and the team played together, totaling 30 assists on 35 baskets.
The U.S.’s best players stepped up when they were needed most and the team fought back relentlessly. After trailing through the first period, they proceeded to drop 31 points on 67% shooting (12/18) in the second quarter.
Following that, they faced every single attack the French made and beat them down more. Then, when it came down to France frantically trying to bring the deficit closer, the U.S. put its foot down. After France took the lead, 72 to 71, the U.S. went on a 22-10 run in the final nine minutes.
Team U.S.A. is the Most Dominant Team Ever
The mental strength and fortitude of the U.S. are impressive. For a team that has won 52-straight Olympic games and is now vying for a seventh consecutive Olympic gold medal, it should come as no a surprise that the U.S. women play and win as a team.
The U.S. women have won six consecutive Olympic Gold Medals dating back to 1996. That is one short of the record of seven straight by the U.S. Men’s Basketball team from 1936, 1948-1968.
Team U.S.A. is also led by two guards, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, who have won the most consecutive team gold medals of any female athlete ever with four. They are tied with their former teammates Tamika Catchings and Lisa Leslie, as well as Wu Minxia, a Chinese diver. They fall only behind Aladár Gerevich of Hungary. He won six consecutive gold medals with the sabre team from 1932-1960.
There have been many different iterations with many different players over the years. But this year’s Team U.S.A. is primed for the same outcome. The expectations are set. This program plays together, plays hard, and plays with character. Regardless of the amount of attention they get (or don’t get), Team U.S.A. continues to dominate.
This year’s Olympic victory for Team U.S.A. could also be historic on many fronts. Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi could hold the record outright for most consecutive Olympic gold medals by female athletes. And Team U.S.A. could claim its spot as the most dominant Olympic team ever.
Go Watch Them Play and Cheer Them On
It’s time to give this team its credit and attention. They truly are one of the best.
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