LONDON: Four-time defending champion United States advanced to the Olympic women's basketball final with an 86-73 victory over Australia on Thursday, stretching the U.S. Olympic win streak to 40 games.
The Women's NBA stars will try to take home their fifth gold medal in a row in Saturday's championship game against the winner of a later semi-final between undefeated France and reigning European champion Russia.
Australia, which will play the Russia-France loser for bronze, lost to the U.S. women in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 finals but the Opals faced the Americans one round earlier this year after losing to France in the group stage.
Tina Charles scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to spark the U.S. women while Diana Taurasi added 14 points and Sue Bird contributed 13.
The U.S. women, who have not lost at the Olympics since the 1992 semi-finals, improved to 16-0 against Australia in Olympic and world championship play. They are 8-1 against Russia and 6-1 against France in the same events.
Liz Cambage, a 2.03m centre who made the first dunk by a woman in Olympic history earlier in the event, scored 10 points to give Australia a 22-20 edge after the first quarter, the US struggling to cope with her size advantage.
Cambage added nine points in the second quarter as Australia stretched the lead to 47-43 at half-time, having twice led by as much as seven in the second period.
Even when Cambage went to the bench, the Aussies replaced her with all-time Olympic scoring leader Lauren Jackson, a 1.96m centre who was still as tall as the tallest American player.
But Diana Taurasi hit two 3-pointers in an 8-1 U.S. run to open the third quarter, putting the Americans up 51-48, and the game tightened, the defending champions holding Cambage scoreless in the second half with aggressive defense.
The Aussies led 56-55 when U.S. guard Lindsay Whalen scored six points in a row and forward Tina Charles followed with the last four points of the third quarter during a 26-10 run that put the Americans ahead 81-66 with 3:25 to go.