Olympics: Team USA women’s basketball rolls into semis, Japan wins historic thriller to advance

Tina Charles Team USA Olympics
Tina Charles of the United States in action with Sara Blicavs of Australia.
REUTERS/Sergio Perez

Team USA rolled over Australia in the women’s basketball quarterfinals at the Olympics on Wednesday, while host nation Japan won a three-point shootout to earn a historic chance for a medal.

The stage is set for Friday’s semi-finals, with the United States to take on Serbia, while Japan will meet France.

As the U.S. men’s performance on Tuesday, the American women are now just one win away from the gold-medal game with a 76-55 trouncing of Australia at the Saitama Super Arena, north of Tokyo.

The Americans were undefeated through the group stage, while Australia edged other third-place finishers to make it to the knockout bracket.

“We’re happy that we played well,” Team USA captain Sue Bird, now in her fifth Olympics, said. “I think all of us will go to sleep tonight feeling good in terms of the trajectory we’re on. But that doesn’t mean anything for the semis.”

As with the men’s side, the U.S. women’s basketball team is a perennial favorite at the Games, taking eight gold medals since 1976.

Serbia, the reigning EuroBasket champions, came from behind to defeat China 77-70 and set up their clash with the United States.

“All of us who played overseas, you always had a Serb on your team,” Bird said about her team’s next opponents. “They just know how to ball out. They know how to play basketball.”

Down by nine at the start of the fourth quarter, Serbia’s Ana Dabovic ignited a comeback with a three-pointer and lay-up in quick succession that tied the game.

“We never quit, and we play the hardest when we are down,” said Dabovic, who scored 13 points. “We showed today we can find energy.”

In a furious, back-and-forth game, Japan’s Saki Hayashi sank a three-pointer to put her side up 86-85 against Belgium in the final seconds. Japan hung on and earned its first-ever slot in the Olympic semifinals. The host nation’s women hit 14 shots from beyond the arc compared to 11 for the Belgians.

Japan head coach Thomas Wayne Hovasse threw down the gauntlet against Team USA in a post-match news conference.

“Four and a half years ago, I said my goal, my dream, is to beat America in the Tokyo Olympics in the championship game,” Hovasse said. “Everybody laughed at me. I don’t know, there might be some people starting to believe now.”

In the last quarterfinal game on Wednesday, France eked out a 67-64 win over Spain, who had rallied to tie the score late in the fourth quarter. Marine Johannes led France with 18 points, including a critical jumper as the shot clock ran out in the final minute.