On Saturday at 2:30 PM EST, the U.S. Women’s National Team will take on Spain for the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Here’s what you need to know for this all-important match.
History In The Making
No matter what happens on Saturday, the Spanish Women’s National Basketball team will be taking home their first ever Olympic medal. In fact, never before had they even reached the semifinal stage. If, somehow, they are able to pull off the upset, they will take the historic moment even further by capturing the first gold medal in Spanish basketball history–men or women.
As for the Americans, a win would extend their Olympic unbeaten streak to 49 games, dating back to the bronze medal game in the 1992 Barcelona games. But more importantly, the win would extend their gold medal streak to six, matching the U.S. Men’s Basketball and Indian Men’s Field Hockey as the only group sports programs to win six straight Olympic gold medals.
In addition, the USAB Women have already set numerous single game and single Olympic tournament records, such as the 40 assists they recorded against China. On Saturday they will have a chance to set many more records, but perhaps the most impressive of these would be a scoring record that hinges on them scoring 104 points.
If they reach that mark they would break two esteemed records held by the 1996 team. First, 104 points (or just 100) would give them six 100-plus point performances, the most in one Olympics; second, with 104 points they would pass the ’96 squad’s record of 819 total points in one Olympic tournament.
Championships Gold Medals
The American defense has been stout, allowing just 63.2 points per game during group play, but the Spaniards were right behind, giving up just 66.6 points over the first five games themselves.
If the Spanish women hope to take home the first gold medal in Spanish basketball history, they will have to rely on their defense to get them there. Their offense isn’t bad, as they’re currently fifth in scoring in Rio (74.1 points per game), but they aren’t beating the Americans in a shootout.
American (Re)Introduction To Alba Torrens
Most of the best players in the world ply their trade in the WNBA, but of course there are plenty of stars putting in work overseas. One of those women is Spain’s Alba Torrens. The 26-year-old guard won FIBA Europe Young Women’s Player of the Year in 2009, then made it clear that was no fluke by taking home both FIBA Europe Women’s Player of the Year and EuroLeague Finals MVP in 2011 and 2014.
She’s continued to play well in Rio, dropping 16.1 points per game, good for sixth in the tournament, and also holds the third highest single game total–the 32 she dropped on China in the group stage.
Torrens won’t do much work from the outside–she’s made just 4 three-pointers in Rio–but she can get to the line, with seven made free throws in three different games.
In the first game against the Americans, Torrens dropped 20 points; on Saturday she’ll have another chance to (re)introduce herself to the U.S.
Both teams have numerous players capable of taking a game over by themselves, but thus far in Rio have played a team-oriented brand of basketball. Alba Torrens (6th), Diana Taurasi (8th), and Astou Ndour (14th) are the only players on the two teams among the top 20 scorers in Rio.
In addition the two squads are each in the top three in assists per game during the tournament, with the U.S. dishing out an incredible 27.7 per game to lead the way, and Spain following behind in third with 18.9 a night.
It’s safe to say there won’t be much one-on-one play when these two meet on Saturday.
WNBA Teammates–Current And Former–Reunite
There are three sets of WNBA teammates on the U.S. roster, with Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen, and Sylvia Fowles representing the Minnesota Lynx, Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner representing the Phoenix Mercury, and Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart representing the Seattle Storm.
Against Spain, there will be even more WNBA reunions. Taurasi and Griner will meet their teammate, Marta Xargay, while the Lynx crew will ruinite with Anna Cruz, who helped them win a championship last summer. Most years there would also be an Atlanta meet up, but unfortunately Sancho Lyttle suffered a foot injury earlier this year and is not with the Spanish team in Rio.
While not meaning much in terms of who wins the game, these reunions should provide a few neat moments for fans of those WNBA teams.