RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The U.S. women’s basketball team wrapped up Olympic preliminary round play in familiar blowout style by routing China 105-62 on Sunday, storming into the quarter-finals unbeaten and on course for a sixth straight gold medal.
Serbia also secured a spot in the last eight, grinding out a 95-88 victory over winless Senegal, while Spain beat Canada 73-60 in the final Group B clash to set the matchups.
Group B top-seeded United States have their next opponent, 16th ranked Japan, in their crosshairs while Serbia get unbeaten Australia, Group A’s top seed.
The other games, all scheduled for Tuesday, will see 2012 London silver medalists France take on Canada and Spain face Turkey.
No nation faces a more daunting task than fourth-seeded Japan, who will try to end the Americans’ 46-game Olympic winning run that dates back to the 1992 Barcelona Games.
With an overall record of 63-3, Olympic losses are rare for the U.S., but Japan can claim one of them, although it occurred 40 years ago at the 1976 Montreal Games.
”I actually saw Japan play Australia earlier this week, and I thought they looked amazing,“ said U.S. head coach Geno Auriemma. ”They’re big, they’re talented, they’re tough.
”They’re a lot like Serbia in that they can really make you look silly on defense.
“It’s going to be hard, because they’re really, really good. It’s the quarter-finals of the Olympics, and it’s supposed to be hard.”
Coming through Group B play with a record of 3-2, Japan do not look like a major threat to a U.S. team that is firing on all cylinders.
Like so many other teams, China came in to their final Group B contest looking for a first-ever win over the U.S., having lost all previous six Olympic encounters where they were outscored by an average of 34.7 points.
The U.S. has scored over 100 points in all five group games and had a hot hand again, spotting China a 3-2 lead then going on a 20-0 run to stamp their authority on the contest.
Brittney Griner and Tina Charles, two of five members of the U.S. team who spent time playing professionally in China, both had a game-high 18 points.
”We knew kind of what we wanted to do today, and I think in every single area that we had marked down that we wanted to get accomplished, we got accomplished today,“ said Auriemma. ”You can’t play it any better than we played it in the first half.
“That was really fun to watch.”
Perhaps not so much fun from the other bench, the loss combined with a Serbia win, knocking China out of the medal round.
Reporting by Steve Keating; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Bill Rigby