Players and coaches enter games naturally thinking of the questions Geno Auriemma posed after the USA’s 103-63 rout of Spain on Monday in Rio:
“What are they going to do?”
“How are we going to stop them?”
“How are we going to guard them?”
The U.S. Women’s National Team has provided resounding answers in each of their first two Olympic games. The total tally so far: USA 224, Rest of World 119.
In reality, a team that has now won 43 consecutive games at the Olympics — that hasn’t lost since 1992 — needs to worry little about its opponents. It’s the opponents that do the worrying.
“You kind of step back,” Auriemma continued, “and go, ‘Yeah, well they have to guard us.'”
That part did not go well for Spain on Monday in both teams’ second Preliminary Round matchup. Nine USA players scored at least eight points and the superstar-laden team shot 55 percent compared to Spain’s 35 percent.
“Would I want to be in their shoes?” point guard Sue Bird, playing in her fourth Olympics, said afterward. “Probably not.”
“A lot of Olympic teams that I’ve been on have had offensive power, but now we go all the way down to the 12th player and the minute you sub there’s no let-off; that person who comes in can do just as much offensively as the next,” she added. “And also, we have our foot on the gas pedal. We’re trying to get better with every single game and you can’t relax. I know the score, it is what it is, but we don’t relax regardless.”
Chatter heading into Rio centered around which of the 12 WNBA stars Auriemma would tab as starters in Rio. The answer, however, was fairly obvious: It hardly matters. Whichever five the coach puts out there has the ability to dominate.
Still, Auriemma’s move to add Brittney Griner to the four players who started all four of USA’s tune-up games — Bird, Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore and Tina Charles — was an interesting one. Griner more than any other player embodies the Americans’ advantages over the competition; bigger, stronger and faster.
The flip side of that move leaves players like former WNBA MVPs Elena Delle Donne and Tamika Catchings to come off the bench with fresh legs. Catchings, a three-time gold medalist alongside Bird and Taurasi — among many other accolades — helps strike an unselfish chord throughout the roster.
“That’s the one thing about playing on the Olympic team,” Catchings said Monday. “Everybody setting aside their pride or egos and being able to put those aside to come together as a team and really focus on what needs to be done.”
The combination of talent and unselfishness has proven deadly for the rest of the field over the past five Olympics. “Spain’s a really good team,” Auriemma said Monday. And he may be right — the Spaniards did just beat his team’s next opponent, Serbia, in their opening game.
But the USA’s a really good team, too.