COLUMBIA, S.C. - The South Carolina duo of head coach Dawn Staley and alumna A'ja Wilson again guided the U.S. to a victory in Olympic women's basketball preliminary round action, topping host Japan 86-69 on Friday. Wilson led all scorers for the second-straight game, netting 20 points to go with her 10 rebounds and three blocked shots.
"Japan is a tough team to play against," Staley said. "After the first quarter I thought we did a great job disrupting them and not allowing them to take and make as many 3-point shots uncontested. We just forced them to put the ball on the floor and then our bigs got involved. I was happy that we locked down and got that done. I'm happy for our team because we are slowly coming together and playing the style of play we need to play to not only get better, but just compete and to get out of pool play because we've got a tough pool."
Behind 6-of-10 shooting from 3-point range in the first quarter, Japan established a 30-28 advantage by the end of the first quarter. Tied at 36-36 midway through the second period, a 7-0 run allowed the American to establish a 49-40 halftime lead.
In the third, Japan kept the U.S. off the board for over four minutes to close within five at 56-51 with 4:27 left in the period. It was Wilson who stopped the surge, completing a three-point play to start a 9-1 run that closed out the period, giving the Americans a 65-53. The Gamecock alumna scored 10 of the U.S.'s 21 points in the quarter.
"Japan's always a team that is very competitive and is gonna take us out of our normal things, like going to our post players," Wilson said. "When it comes to Japan, we have to really guard their guards, so they kind of keep us on our toes. But, we really played to our strengths and our talents, and we got the win. So, I'm happy about that."
The U.S. allowed Japan to get no closer than eight points in the fourth quarter to improve to 2-0 in Group B play. The U.S. will play France to wrap up group lay on Mon., Aug. 2, at 12:40 a.m. ET on USA Network.