Sue Bird and the USA women’s basketball team will get a shot to win another Olympic gold medal after defeating Lauren Jackson and the Australian national team Thursday in London, 86-73. Bird will be seeking her third gold (Athens, 2004; Beijing, 2008) while Jackson, a winner of three silvers (2000, 2004, 2008) will get a chance to win a bronze.
Winner of 40 consecutive Olympic games, the U.S. will face the winner of France vs. Russia for the gold medal Saturday.
Also Thursday, the USA women’s volleyball team, featuring former Washington Huskies Courtney Thompson and Tamari Miyashiro, advanced to the Olympic final with a 25-20, 25-22, 25-22 win over South Korea. They will meet Saturday the winner of a later semifinal between Brazil and Japan.
Led by Jackson and Liz Cambage, Australia, shooting at a 61 percent clip, held a four-point lead over the United States at halftime, but the Americans roared back in the second half to win going away.
The United States outscored Australia 43-26 in the final two quarters by limiting Australia to just 23 percent shooting, the big difference in the game.
Cambage scored 19 points in the first half, but the USA shut her out in the final two quarters.
“I think they (Australia) took their best shot at us in the first half,” said Bird. “But at halftime we talked about being more aggressive defensively, and we were. As for me personally, I got some open looks and luckily was able to knock them down.”
Jackson, who took off the first half of her Seattle WNBA season specifically to train with her team in order to beat the Americans, has been denied a gold medal four times by the USA, three times with Bird, her Seattle Storm teammate, opposing her.
“It’s a tough one for her,” Bird said of Jackson. “She’s one of my closest friends. I love her to death, but when we step on the court on opposite teams I just can’t let her have it.”
The Storm teammates played prominent roles. Bird had her highest-scoring game of the Olympics with 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting. She added four rebounds and two assists. Diana Taurasi and Tina Charles led the U.S. with 14 points each, but Taurasi spent most of the game in foul trouble.
Jackson, the all-time leading scorer in women’s Olympic basketball history, had 14 points, 17 rebounds and one assist. Her 17 rebounds was one shy of the Olympic record.