Diana Taurasi high fives her teammates during a game at the FIBA World Cup on Sept. 29, 2018 in Tenerife, Spain.
The U.S. women’s basketball team powered into the championship game of the FIBA Women’s World Cup with a 93-77 victory over Belgium on Saturday in Tenerife, Spain. Four-time Olympic gold medalist Diana Taurasi scored a game-high 26 points and 2016 Olympic teammate Breanna Stewart added 20 points in a winning effort.
Team USA will go after a three-peat championship on Sunday at Santiago Martin Arena and its 21st consecutive win in World Cup play. The U.S. has won five of the last six world cup tournaments and goes after its 10th championship overall on Sunday.
Taurasi, one of six Olympians on the team, was a catalyst for the U.S. as she tallied 13 points in the third quarter.
In the first half, Belgium didn’t make things easy for the U.S.
Belgium’s Emma Meesseman led all scorers with 13 points in the first half as the U.S. headed into the break clinging to a one-point lead, 40-39. Belgium had led by five points, 26-21, after one quarter of play. This was the first time Belgium had ever played in the World Cup.
But Team USA powered things up in the second half. Stewart, a 2016 Olympic gold medalist, scored nine points in the third quarter. Sue Bird, a four-time Olympic gold medalist and the first U.S. woman to play in five world cup tournaments, added three assists. The U.S. pulled ahead, 73-57, and maintained that 16-point lead at the final buzzer.
Bird finished with a team-high seven assists. She's now just one assist away from passing current Team USA head coach Dawn Staley as the U.S.’s all-time assists leader. Stewart and Tina Charles each had a game-high seven rebounds.
Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1996, when he was an assistant bureau chief in Atlanta. He is sports editor of the Cape Cod Times and a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.