The U.S. women’s national basketball team defeated Australia easily in their quarterfinal matchup, 79-55.
Their knockout stage matchup was a rematch from an exhibition meeting a month ago, which saw the Aussies defeat the Americans 70-67.
By an indication of their most recent meeting, the Americans made sure to make a statement. The message was sent clearly with Breanna Stewart’s torrid play in the first half, scoring 20 of her 23 points in the first half and going 7-for-8 from the field.
She was in a zone, and felt comfortable on the court.
“To be honest, I don’t think I’m thinking at all,” Stewart said. “I think I’m just playing, having a feel for the game. Knowing that shots went in. Knowing the defense is on their heels. And I’m just trying to make the right play knowing the defense is going to be up on me.”
Standout performances and dominance are what people have become accustomed to with the Americans. On their road for gold, they haven’t had many blowouts. Decimating the No. 2 ranked team is a message that needed to be sent to the remaining teams.
“I think we have improved every game from pool play,” she said. “From the first game to the last. Knowing that this is the knockout stage, it’s win or go home. We want to be our best and continue to trend upward. I think that we handled business but there’s more business to be done on Friday.”
With Stewart’s stellar performance on offense, she didn’t forget about defense. The Americans forced Australia to 15 turnovers in the first half and recorded seven steals while ballooning their lead to as much as 21 points.
"I thought we came out and played inspired basketball," U.S. coach Dawn Staley said. "We played with an incredible desire to advance. I was truly proud of our effort and truly proud of the performance."
Stewart’s performance helped extend her team’s Olympic winning streak to 53 games. Next up for them will be Serbia, who defeated China to inch a game closer to the gold medal game.
“I think tough,” Stewart said of Serbia. “They’re a team that never stops moving. They’re physical. They can play inside and out.”