The victory marked the third consecutive gold medal and fifth in seven Olympic appearances for the U.S.A. women. For the most part, Coach Van Chancellor relied on his veteran players in the semifinal against Russia, a tough 66-62 victory, and today's win.
The exception was Diana Taurasi who had six points and a block in the semis and tallied eight points, two blocks and one steal in the championship contest.
Three of those players who also won in Atlanta (1996) and Sydney (2000) – Lisa Leslie, Dawn Staley and Sheryl Swoopes – became the first Women's Basketball players, besides their former teammate Teresa Edwards (4), to win more than two Olympic golds. The U.S.A. holds a 43-0 winning streak in the Olympics and World Championships since winning the 1992 bronze medal game at Barcelona.
Tina Thompson paced U.S.A. with 18 points, while Staley had 14, Leslie 13 and Shannon Johnson 12, including a number of critical scores after Australia led late in the third quarter.
The U.S.A. defense locked up Australia's scoring star, and Sue Bird's Seattle Storm teammate, Lauren Jackson throughout the game. Jackson, who averaged 24.4 points in the previous seven games, finished with 12 points to go along with a game-high 14 rebounds.
Penny Taylor, Taurasi's Phoenix Mercury teammate, was Australia's top scorer with 14 points. Kristi Harrower added 11.
The U.S. was successful getting the ball to Thompson and Leslie for a quick 10-5 lead. Then Swoopes' 3-pointer made it 13-7. After making the game's first shot, Jackson had trouble against the taller Leslie. A basket-plus-free throw by Belinda Snell got Australia within one at 13-12. Taurasi nailed a trey to give the U.S. a 17-14 lead as the first quarter ended. (There are four 10-minute quarters in international play, which also uses a 24-second shot clock.)
Taurasi, Thompson and Leslie scored early in the second quarter for U.S.A.'s largest lead of the half, 23-15. Jackson's next basket and a 3-pointer by Fallon revived Australia only to see the U.S.A. regain control at 29-22. Australia's defense tightened, blanking the U.S. over the last 2:31 of the half. Scores by Taylor and Trish Fallon cut Australia's deficit to 29-26 at the break.
Australia made a move right after halftime, tying the game, 29-29, on Taylor's 3-pointer. Batkovic's hook shot gave her team its first lead of the game. The Australians stayed a step ahead to lead 38-34 before Staley's five straight points and Thompson's turnaround baseline jumper enabled the U.S. to reclaim a 41-38 lead. Snell erased that with a single shot from the arc. Tree consecutive drives by Taylor had Australia ahead again, 49-45. That lead disappeared for good on Taurasi's second three-pointer and free throws by Johnson, who then dropped the last shot of the quarter for a 52-50 U.S.A. advantage.
Aggressive defense all over the court by the U.S. in the final quarter was the difference as Australia went almost five minutes without a basket. In the meantime, Johnson and Yolanda Griffith combined for seven points in a 9-0 run for the U.S.'s first double-digit lead, 61-51. Australia tried to come back with six of the next eight points, capped by Harrower's fullcourt layup, cutting the score to 63-57. After a timeout, U.S.A. got the ball to Thompson, who hit a triple with 2:40 to play and fed Leslie for a layup on the next possession. At 68-59 with time running out, it was clear that, at least in Women's Basketball, the U.S.A. still dominates.
Staley, who plays with the WNBA Charlotte Sting and is Temple University's head coach said, "We dedicate this Gold medal to all Americans and Spaniards back home. We have all come from humble beginnings and it is just great to be here."
Russia won the bronze medal in the day's first game, a 71-62 decision over Brazil.
Athens 2004 contributed to this story.