That was a close one. Team USA was given all it could handle in the first half from Australia, but it prevailed 86-73 to move on to the gold-medal game. Australia's 6'8" center Elizabeth Cambage had 19 points, as the Americans had no answer for her early.
Team USA faced a 47-43 deficit at the half, but Diana Taurasi made two three-pointers early in the second half to help Team USA take the lead.
Australia stayed close the rest of the way, but its inability to find offense from anyone besides Cambage and Lauren Jackson sunk it. This was not the Americans' best effort, but they deserve credit for overcoming a team that had a solid game plan and a formidable presence in the middle.
When Geno Auriemma switched to zone, it changed the game. It makes you wonder why the Americans didn't play that way the entire game.
This one made Americans really wish Brittney Griner was playing for Team USA.
The Americans pulled away in the fourth to earn their most difficult victory of these Olympics.
Early on USA Basketball tweeted the scores and stats. It was not yet aware of the dogfight this would be:
It's been a tight contest so far and at the end of the 1st Q, USA trails AUS 22-20; Bird, Moore & Charles have 4 points apiece. Go USA!!!— USA Basketball (@usabasketball) August 9, 2012
Chicago Bulls and Chicago Sun-Times reporter K.C. Johnson reminded us of just how much pressure the female hoopsters are under:
Australia leading U.S. womens hoops by 4 at half.No pressure on U.S. Only 39-game/20-year Olympic win streak on line . . . #London2012— K.C Johnson (@KCJHoop) August 9, 2012
ESPN's Mark Jones summed it up here. The Americans' speed and defense proved to be the deciding factor in the second half:
3 minutes to go and USA is limiting Austrailia to 23% fg. There's no substitute for speed and defense. USA up 13— Mark Jones (@MarkJonesESPN) August 9, 2012
Grades for Key Team USA Players
Tina Charles: B+
Though she was overmatched in the size department, she battled on the inside. Her 14 points and 10 rebounds were key for the Americans. She provided some physical play and the best low-post defense possible.
It was a tough assignment dealing with Cambage and Jackson on Thursday.
Her performance in the third quarter was huge. She helped hold Cambage scoreless in the period, and the United States made its move.
Diana Taurasi: B+
She picked up her fourth foul early in the fourth quarter, but her two three-pointers early in the third started a Team USA run. After that the Americans took control of the game.
Taurasi finished with 14 points.
Grades for Key Team Australia Players
Elizabeth Cambage: B+
She dominated in the first half with 19 points but didn't produce a single point in the second half. Team USA shut her down, and that was the main reason the Aussies struggled to score.
She did have two blocked shots, but the seven turnovers were huge.
The perimeter players simply could not get her the ball late. When they did, she turned it over or didn't convert.
Lauren Jackson: A+
Jackson was a beast. She had a double-double and was a handful for the Americans all game. She finished with 14 points and 17 rebounds, but it wasn't enough.
Team USA will await the winner of France vs. Russia, and honestly, the gold-medal game should be an easier game than this one was.
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