By: Jeffrey Newholm
In a day where multiple records fell, the US women demolished Senegal 121-56 Sunday morning in the first game of preliminary round-robin play. Diana Taurasi tied her own Olympic record with five threes, and the team set a US record for most points and biggest margin of victory. This one was decided quickly as team US shot a blistering 70% in the first half and led by 26 at the end of one. It was a routine and predictable outcome against a team that has never won an Olympic game. But there were still some interesting things to note.
First, much was made about the decision to choose WNBA rookie Breanna Stewart for the team over the more experienced Candace Parker. But in the limited minutes she played she looked comfortable and prepared. She hit her first four Olympic shots and tied for the team lead with 15 points. Brittney Griner also made a fine Olympic debut. She hauled in seven boards and recorded her first two blocks. However, Griner seemed a bit too aggressive on defense, picking up two fouls in just 16 minutes. Griner could be a great asset to the team, but she has to play disciplined if she wants stay on the floor. Point guard Sue Bird set the table for a fine US feast with eight assists, including seven in the first half. The game was such a laugher that all 12 players played significant minutes and got on the scoreboard. There was plenty to be pleased about on the micro level, but I was most impressed with the play of the team as a whole.
It’s probably easy for one to dismiss the 65 point win as a good team beating up on a hapless foe. But honestly I think that Senegal passed the eye test. They looked like a competent team that was capable of playing well. America’s team just played that much better. Everything seemed to click for team US as each player knew and played up to her role. The biggest problem I see for this morning’s game against Spain is overconfidence. Spain is the #3 team in the world and it would be natural to be unprepared after such a one-sided debut. Taurasi insisted that, despite the game being a record rout, that “there are things we have to work on”. Olympic coach Geno Auriemma tries to instill such an attitude of continuous self-improvement for all the players he coaches, whether collegiate or Olympian. America’s chances to continue their 42 game Olympic streak hinges on Taurasi’s 11 teammates having the same attitude after every game this August, regardless of the real or perceived weakness of their opponent.
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