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Third quarter surge pushes U.S. into women’s hoops gold medal game

Canada v United States - Women's Basketball - Olympics: Day 7

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12: Diana Taurasi #12 of United States reacts after scoring against Canada during the women’s basketball game on Day 7 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Youth Arena on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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For the second consecutive game the U.S. women’s basketball team played a first half tighter than many anticipated. And for the second straight game, Geno Auriemma’s team used stifling defense to turn a close game into a comfortable victory.

The U.S. limited France to just eight points in the third quarter, outscoring them by 17 points on their way to the 86-67 victory. As a result they’ll play for a sixth consecutive Olympic gold medal Saturday, with Spain being the opposition. Diana Taurasi led five Americans in double figures with 18 points, with the team also being better offensively in the second half as they played without starting point guard Sue Bird.

With Bird missing the game with a sprained knee suffered in their quarterfinal win over Japan, the U.S. had just four assists in the first half as they took a 40-36 lead into the halftime break. There was better ball movement in the second half, which combined with improved defense led to a 48th consecutive victory in Olympic competition.

The U.S. shot just 4-for-15 from beyond the arc with Taurasi, who has now made a record 28 three-pointers in these Olympics, responsible for three of the makes. But overall the Americans managed to shoot 49 percent from the field, with a stronger commitment to getting the ball inside in the second stanza resulting in greater offensive productivity.

Isabelle Yacoubou led France, which will play Serbia for the bronze medal Saturday, with 14 points and Marine Johannes added 13.