Diana Taurasi got the U.S. women’s basketball team off and running and their Olympic newcomers carried them the rest of the way to an easy rout in record fashion.
Taurasi hit three 3-pointers in the first few minutes and the Americans beat Senegal 121-56 on Sunday in their Olympic opener. She finished with 15 points, hitting five 3-pointers, and Sylvia Fowles also had 15 points as the U.S. won its 42nd consecutive game in the Olympics. The Americans are trying to win a sixth consecutive gold medal.
The game wasn’t expected to be close, and it wasn’t.
The Brazilian fans tried to spur on the African country, cheering loudly every time they scored and booing the U.S. when the Americans had the ball. The fans even shouted down a brief U.S. chant with a Senegal one.
Despite the vocal support, the only real suspense Sunday was how many records the U.S. team would break. They reached the 100-point mark for the 15th time in Olympic history early in the fourth quarter and Breanna Stewart hit a 3-pointer with 3 minutes left to top the record 114 points the Americans had against China in 2012. They also broke the largest margin of victory in US history which had been a 60-point win over Zaire in 1996.
The Americans were a 57.5-point favorite coming into the contest. Taurasi swished her early 3-pointers as the U.S. raced out to a 27-5 lead. The Americans led 35-9 after the first quarter and by 43 at the half.
Both U.S. basketball teams opened with dominated victories. The women’s performance came less than 24 hours after the men’s team opened with a 57-point rout of China.
First-time Olympians Griner, Elena Delle Donne and Stewart all had their first taste of the Games. Griner started and had 10 points and two blocks by the half. The 6-foot-8 center, who missed out on the London Games citing family health issues and academics at the time, has made it her goal to try and break the U.S. blocked shots record for both a game and the entire Olympics. She only had two against Senegal.
Stewart, who won four titles under coach Geno Auriemma at UConn, scored 15 points, including two on a nifty alley-oop layup from Sue Bird. Delle Donne added 11 points.
“This is my first Olympics, so nothing about it is old,” Stewart said. “It’s all new. We wanted to come out and set the tone for the tournament, and then individually I want to help make an impact. Obviously, to be here and be the youngest one here, I’m just trying to be a sponge in learning from the vets, but also when it’s my turn go out and play.”
Senegal was playing in its second Olympics. The African nation lost all six of its games in 2000. Nigeria is still the only African country to win an Olympic contest, getting a victory in 2004.
The U.S. had played Senegal four times – all at the world championship – before Sunday. The Americans won all four by an average of nearly 49 points.
The Americans could face a little stiffer test Monday when they take on Spain.