Aug 03, 2018 11:45 AM
The USA beat the Spanish 101-72 to claim the women’s gold and extend their unbeaten run in the Games to 49 matches, their previous defeat having come as far back as Barcelona 1992. “The United States are impossible to beat,” said Spanish power forward Laura Nicholls prior to the final, acknowledging the superiority of their formidable opponents, whose one and only defeat in an international competition in the last 20 years came against Russia in the semi-finals of the 2006 World Championships.
Victorious in all other 89 matches they have played at major tournaments in the last two decades, the Americans flexed their muscles from the very start in Rio. In cruising through Group B, they amassed a mammoth points difference of +204, scoring their biggest win against Senegal (121-56), their narrowest against Serbia (110-84), and putting 40 points between themselves and eventual runners-up Spain. That was the European side’s one and only defeat of the competition, and they too impressed in the group phase, finishing second behind the peerless Americans.
The reigning European champions, having beaten the French 76-68 in the 2015 final, the Serbs surged into an early lead, only for their opponents to level the score up at 27-all at half-time, much to the displeasure of Serbia coach Marina Maljkovic. “She was so angry with us,” said Milovanovic, revealing the tone of their half-time team talk. “We realised that it was our one and only chance. She said we shouldn’t let them back into the game, and so we went out in the second half and made sure that didn’t happen. And it didn’t.” Acting on her words, Maljkovic’s charges scored 16 points without reply in the third period to move into a 53-40 lead, with Sonja Petrovic contributing eight of them. Though the French outscored their opponents in the final quarter, the damage had been done, with the Serbs holding on to complete a famous win.