TOKYO - South Carolina women's basketball head coach Dawn Staley led the United States to its history-making seventh Olympic gold medal with a 90-75 win over Japan Saturday night. Gamecock alumna A'ja Wilson added 19 points, seven rebounds and five blocks to the gold-medal effort on her 25th birthday in her first Olympic Games.
Staley's 30-year career with USA Basketball and a player and coach now includes her first Olympic gold medal as a head coach. The first black head coach of the team, she has been on the court or the bench for six of the historic seven straight Olympic gold-medal showings by the U.S.
Wilson's five blocked shots set an individual U.S. Olympic women's single-game record.
With seven straight Olympic gold medals, the U.S. women matched the U.S. Olympic men's team's streak of winning the first seven golds (1936-68) after the sport's Olympic debut. It is the most consecutive gold medals in a team sport in Olympic history.
The Americans exploded into the gold medal game, opening an 18-5 lead in the first six minutes. Japan narrowed the gap to 18-11 behind its 3-point shooting, but the U.S. shot a sterling 61.1 percent from the field in the opening 10 minutes, including four points from A'ja Wilson to stake a 23-14 lead by the end of the period.
In the second quarter, Japan found its range, shooting 55.0 percent from the field, but could not close in on the Americans, who continued to dominate the paint on both ends of the court. The U.S. scored 18 of its 27 second-quarter points in the paint and used a 10-2 run that included a Wilson block and two points to take a 50-39 lead into halftime.
An 11-2 run in the third quarter pushed the lead to an insurmountable 64-45 margin for the U.S., even as Japan kept the pressure on. Wilson contributed six points and block to the surge as the U.S. added another 16 points in the paint in the period..
Wilson finished the tournament as the United States' top scorer, pouring in 16.5 points per game shooting 59.4 percent from the field in her Olympic debut. She was second on the team in rebounding at 7.3 per game and swatted away a team-high 11 blocks over the six games in Tokyo.
Wilson joins Shannon Johnson (1993-96) as the only Gamecock basketball alumnae to earn Olympic 5x5 gold medals. Allisha Gray (2016-17) captured gold earlier this month in 3x3 basketball in that sport's Olympic debut. South Carolina Athletics has seen nine alumni collect gold medals, including Wadeline Jonathas, who picked up gold in the 4x400 relay this weekend. Other Gamecock gold medalists are: Adam Everett (2000, USA Baseball), Otis Harris (2004 USA Track 4x400m relay), Aleen Bailey (2004 Jamaica Track 4x100m relay), Natasha Hastings (2008 USA Track 4x400m relay) and Tonique Williams-Darling (2004 Bahamas Track 400 meters).