U.S. women win 50th straight Olympic basketball game with victory over Nigeria
Japan beats France 74-70 earlier in the day
A'ja Wilson had 19 points and 13 rebounds in her Olympic debut to help the U.S. beat Nigeria 81-72 on Tuesday in the opener for both teams.
The win was the Americans' 50th consecutive victory in the Olympics dating back to a loss in the semifinals of the 1992 Barcelona Games.
Diana Taurasi, who was playing in her first game in nearly a month after suffering a hip injury, has competed in the last 33 of those victories to set a record for most games in the Olympics. She showed no ill-effects from the injury that sidelined her for the team's three exhibition games in Las Vegas two weeks ago. While she sat out, the U.S. suffered two rare losses; one to a WNBA All-Star team and the other Australia. Taurasi finished with 10 points, all coming in the first half.
She injured her hip during practice with the Phoenix Mercury in early July.
With a roster full of former U.S. college players, Nigeria wasn't intimidated by the Americans. The African country jumped out to an 8-1 lead as the U.S. missed its first four shots and committed four turnovers. The Nigerians were up 20-17 after one quarter and extended the lead to 25-20 before the U.S. took over.
The Americans scored 23 straight points, the first four by Wilson — one of six newcomers on the U.S. roster. Breanna Stewart scored seven points during the game-changing burst. The U.S. led 44-32 at the half as Nigeria regrouped to score seven of the final eight points of the second quarter.
The U.S. extended the lead to 70-50 at the end of the third quarter on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Jewell Loyd. The Americans led 75-55 before Nigeria scored 12 straight points to cut it to eight with 3:19 left.
That's as close as they would get, although they became the first team to get within single digits of the U.S. since Russia lost in the semifinals of the 2004 Athens Games by four.
Ezinne Kalu scored 16 to lead Nigeria.
Japan defeats France
Saki Hayashi scored 12 points and Moeko Nagaoka added 11 to help Japan beat France 74-70 on Tuesday in the Olympic opener for both teams.
It was a tight game throughout and Japan led 52-49 after three quarters before France quickly tied it at 55 with 6:48 left. The teams then exchanged leads over the next few minutes.
Maki Takada's three-point play with 1:15 left gave Japan a 69-68 lead. Gabby Williams missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key for France, then Nagaoka hit a 3 from the wing with 28.2 seconds left to make it a four-point game.
After a timeout and a couple of fouls, Williams stole the ball at midcourt and scored to bring France within 72-70 with 5.4 seconds left. Hayashi then hit two free throws to seal the win.
Sandrine Gruda scored 18 points to lead France.
Japan is looking for its first Olympic medal, the country's best finish was fifth in 1976. This Japanese team plays an entertaining style to watch with all five players capable of shooting 3-pointers. They make quick cuts to the basket, which creates mismatches for opposing teams that tend to have big centres. It's different than the way most other traditional Asian teams have played.
Japan made 11 of 27 3-pointers against France.
Williams, a member of the Los Angeles Sparks, made her Olympic debut. She has been playing for France this summer, including helping the team to a second place finish at the EuroBasket last month. Williams had been suspended for the entire 2021 season by her former WNBA team the Chicago Sky before she was traded to the Sparks.
James Wade, Chicago's coach and general manager, had said the suspension was due to her prioritization of French national team commitments.
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