The scores have been closer than in years past, but the results remain the same: victory for the U.S. women’s basketball team.
The U.S. earned their latest win during their quest for an eighth straight gold medal, defeating Japan 86-69 on Friday for its 51st consecutive win.
The margins in their first two wins at the Tokyo Olympics haven’t been as wide as many of those during the first 49 wins of that streak. The American’s opening 81-72 win over Nigeria was the closest Olympic margin for the U.S. since the semifinals of the 2004 Athens Games.
In the team’s follow-up against Japan, the U.S. found itself trailing after the first quarter to a team that finished eighth at the 2016 Rio Games. A small and uptempo Japan team, after making 6 of 10 3-point attempts in the opening quarter, led the U.S. 30-28 after the first.
The U.S. countered in the second by going smaller to better defend the perimeter and break Japan’s pressure defense. Team USA limited Japan to 10 points in the quarter and took a 49-40 lead heading into halftime.
Brittney Griner had 11 first half points and A’ja Wilson added 10 to lead the U.S., which shot 60 percent from the field.
After Japan pulled within 56-51 on a bucket by Monica Okoye, the U.S. didn’t allow a field goal for the remainder of the quarter while increasing its lead to 65-53.
The lead continued to grow in the fourth quarter, with a putback by Breanna Stewart capping a 10-0 run that gave the U.S. its largest lead at 84-64.
The U.S. had five players finish in double figures, led by Wilson, who had her second-straight double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Wilson said. “Japan gave us a good run. I had to guard the guards this time, all of us bigs had to guard the guards. So it kind of challenged us in a way. But we went to our strength and we got the [win].”
Stewart added 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Maki Takada had 15 points to lead Japan (1-1), which used its strong defense and outside shooting to upset France, 74-70, in its first game of the Olympics.
The U.S. will finish up group play against France on Monday, Aug. 2, at 12:40 a.m. ET.