LONDON — The names change, not the results. Just call the U.S. women’s basketball team Olympic champion.
The Americans won their fifth consecutive gold medal Saturday, routing France 86-50 and putting more distance between themselves and the rest of the world heading to Rio for the 2016 Games.
Candace Parker scored 21 points, including eight during the game-changing run in the second quarter, as the U.S. won its 41st consecutive Olympic game since taking the bronze medal in 1992.
In that stretch, the Americans have won by nearly 30 points a game. Only one team has stayed within single digits of them, and they’ve lost just once in major international competitions, to Russia in the semifinals of the 2006 world championship.
Teresa Edwards, Dawn Staley, Sheryl Swoopes and Lisa Leslie got the amazing run started and now Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Tamika Catchings have continued it.
With young stars Parker, Maya Moore and Tina Charles a big part of the success in London it doesn’t look like the run will end anytime soon.
Tamika Catchings said the Americans “just wanted to keep that legacy going.”
Edwards, a five-time Olympian, said no worry there.
“The legacy is real,” said Edwards, who had a front-row seat Saturday night. “What these kids have been doing is amazing. Without much time to practice. In the middle of the WNBA season. And they look good. It’s like the whole world knows who we are. I’m really proud of them.
“They’re definitely among some of the best” U.S. teams.
The U.S. faced its only challenge of the London Games when Australia took a four-point halftime lead. It was the first time in 12 years that the Americans had been trailing at the half.
There was no panic or worry. They just stepped up their defense and vanquished the Australians, winning by 13 points.
“It’s not easy to just be put together and be expected to win a gold medal,” Taurasi said. “It’s a special feeling.”
France, which came into the gold medal game unbeaten, stayed with the U.S. for the first 12 minutes before Parker took over. She scored eight straight points during a 13-2 run that gave the U.S. a 37-23 advantage. Twice the 6-foot-4 Parker grabbed the rebound on the defensive end and dribble up through the defense scoring on the other.
While Parker – who also had 11 rebounds – was providing the offense, the Americans turned up their defense, holding France to just one basket over the final 7:25 of the half.
“We always felt like as long as we played our best ... we’d be all right,” Bird said.
The U.S. led by 12 at the half and poured it on in the third quarter. France was able to get within 41-31 but the U.S. ended the French’s hope of the monumental upset, scoring 13 of the next 14 points.
On one sequence, Catchings got a steal, passed it to Bird, who hit Moore in perfect stride for a finger-roll lay-in down the lane. It only got worse from there for France, which was making its Olympic debut.
The Americans bottled France’s flashy point guard Celine Dumerc. Her only field goal in the first half cut the U.S. lead to 24-21 before the Americans turned up its defense. Dumerc finished with just eight points.
With the victory, Moore joined an exclusive club. She’s just the seventh player to win titles in college, the WNBA, the FIBA world championship and the Olympics. Teammates Bird, Taurasi, and Swin Cash are already members.