The USA ladies were defeated early on Monday in Tokyo for the third time in as many Olympic games. They were down 22-19 to France in their final group stage game after trailing by five late in the first quarter to Nigeria and two after one period to Japan.
The French squad put in an amazing early and throughout the game, with six players reaching double figures (headed by Edene Miyam’s 15) in a balanced attacking effort that kept them in touch with Team USA throughout the game. They had to survive the expected American reaction, headed by Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson, in the second quarter, as the USA continues to dominate thanks to their superb frontcourt rotation, which no opponent has been able to match.
While Japan and Nigeria couldn’t keep up with the American ladies in the second half, France held on and even took an early lead in the fourth quarter, putting Team USA in its most vulnerable position of the tournament. However, after dominating in the paint early on, they began to heat up from three, highlighted by Tina Charles’ perfect 3-for-3 night, as well as a pair of critical Sue Bird threes.
Wilson led Team USA in scoring with 22 points to go along with seven rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one block in another dominant performance, like he did against Japan. Stewart (17 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists), Charles (15 points and 5 assists), and Britney Griner (11 points, 3 rebounds) all scored in double digits, while Jewell Loyd (8 assists) and Bird (4 assists) set the table for their frontcourt to dine.
France’s effort was excellent, but as a team, they couldn’t shoot well enough from distance (29 percent) to stay in the game late in the fourth quarter as legs appeared to be tiring. Miyam was joined by Gabby Williams (10 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 6 steals), Marine Johannes (11 points, 7 assists), and Sadrina Gruda (12 points, 6 rebounds) in a hard-fought setback.
On the other hand, the Americans put in a strong showing in the face of France’s consistently excellent play. Team USA shot the ball brilliantly (56 percent from the field, 45 percent from three) and had 30 assists on 35 made baskets, with just 12 mistakes, a significant improvement over their sloppy play in the first two games. They had an answer for every run made by France, and in the end, they simply had too much firepower for the French ladies to overcome, as they remain unbeaten heading into the quarterfinals.