Its Olympic spot already secure, the U.S. women’s basketball team took a better look at this summer’s competition in finishing the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament with a 3-0 record.
Along with host Japan, the U.S. came into the tournament as one of two teams already qualified for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. This weekend determined the final 10 teams that will make up the Olympic field with four tournaments held around the globe.
Team USA opened the second round of the tournament with an 88-69 win over 2016 Olympic bronze medalist and tournament host Serbia in Belgrade on Thursday. Taking advantage of their post players and using an inside-out game, the Americans opened up a 14-point lead in the first half. Serbia, buoyed by the home court support, closed to within eight points at 42-34 at the break, but the U.S. pulled ahead with a big third quarter and didn’t look back.
Four players finished in double-figures in scoring, led by A’ja Wilson with 16 points, seven rebounds and two assists. Skylar Diggins had 15 points while Brittney Griner added 15 points, six rebounds and two assists and Sylvia Fowles had 10 points.
The U.S. soared past Mozambique in the second game, opening up a huge 26-point lead after the first period en route to a 124-49 victory on Saturday night.
Everyone got involved in the offensive action, with all 11 players putting their mark on the scoreboard before halftime. Nneka Ogwumike led the team with 24 points and nine rebounds followed by Wilson with 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Griner chipped in 16 points and nine rebounds and Jewell Loyd had 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
All totaled, six players finished in double-digits in scoring as the U.S. shot 63.2 percent from the field and 100 percent at 20-of-20 from the free throw line.
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Last up was Nigeria on Sunday, and it was the closest contest of the tournament. Nigeria had the lead, 68-66, with three minutes left in the game. Griner tied it on a pair of free throws but with a minute to go the teams were still deadlocked, 70-70. Wilson made a layup, assisted by Sue Bird, to put Team USA ahead and after Nigeria closed within one point on a free throw, Griner scored and the defense kept Nigeria off the board the rest of the way for a 76-71 win.
Griner led the team with 18 points and four rebounds. Chelsea Gray had 12 points, two rebounds and seven assists and Ogwumike had 11 points and five rebounds.
Ogwumike earned tournament MVP honors.
Nigeria and Serbia qualified for the Tokyo Games out of the Serbia-based tournament. The other eight nations to lock in their Olympic spots this weekend are Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Korea, Puerto Rico and Spain.
The U.S. women will be going for their seventh consecutive and ninth overall gold medal at this summer’s Olympic Games.
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.