Olympic Basketball 2021: USA Women's Team, Japan Set for Gold-Medal Match

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistAugust 6, 2021

United States' Brittney Griner (15), right, celebrates with teammates after making a basket during women's basketball semifinal game against Serbia at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, Aug. 6, 2021, in Saitama, Japan. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

The United States women's basketball team will face a new challenger to its gold-medal streak at the Summer Olympics.

Japan emerged from the other side of the knockout bracket after a double-digit victory over France. Team USA advanced to the final with a 20-point win over Serbia.

The Americans will go for their seventh consecutive Olympic title Saturday at 10:30 p.m. ET against the host nation. During the gold-medal streak, the United States defeated Australia on three occasions, France, Spain and Brazil.

Japan is the first Asian nation to play in the women's basketball gold-medal game since China in 1992, and it will be playing in its first-ever championship match.

Saturday's title clash will be a rematch of the group-stage game that the United States won by 17 points.


Semifinal Results

United States 79, Serbia 59

The United States once again used its size to pull away from an opponent, and Brittney Griner took hold of the starring role Friday with 15 points and 12 rebounds.

United States head coach Dawn Staley said afterward that the directive in every game is to find Griner in the paint, per ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst.

"We do emphasize getting [Griner] the ball," Staley said. "She's in great shape, and she wants the ball. She's very competitive and wants to do well. And when all those things are lining up, you play your best basketball, and she's playing her best Olympic basketball."

Griner and Breanna Stewart combined for 27 points and 22 rebounds.

Serbia also had trouble generating offense from three-point range, shooting just 4-of-19. Yvonne Anderson was the only Serbian player to reach double figures with 15 points.


Japan 87, France 71

Rui Machida powered Japan to its second victory over France in the tournament, handing out an Olympic single-game record 18 assists as Japan broke away in the second and third quarters.

France held an eight-point advantage after the first quarter, but Japan reversed that deficit by outscoring the European side by 15 points in the second frame. Japan used a similar offensive boost to break open a massive advantage in the third quarter, outscoring France 27-16.

Himawari Akaho (17) and Yuki Miyazawa (14) reached double digits in scoring for Japan.

Machida will likely need another career-best performance to keep Japan competitive versus the United States, who will have a massive size advantage. Griner is 6'9", Stewart is 6'4" with a 7'1" wingspan, A'ja Wilson is 6'4", Tina Charles is 6'3" and Sylvia Fowles is 6'6". The tallest players on Japan are 6'1" (Maki Takada and Akaho). 

When the two sides met in the group stage, Griner, Stewart and Wilson combined for 50 points and 28 rebounds on the way to an 86-69 victory.