Led by Duke women’s basketball head coach Kara Lawson
, the U.S. Olympic 3×3 Women’s Basketball Team (8-1) earned the first gold medal in Olympic 3×3 basketball history after defeating the Russian Olympic Committee (6-3) 18-15 on Wednesday night at Aomi Urban Sports Park on Saturday in Tokyo.
China (7-3) beat France (5-5) for the bronze medal.
“The competition itself alone is really challenging, but to have no practices with a player and then come in and win the tournament that’s not normal to do,” said Lawson. “So, I think it speaks to their toughness, the intelligence, their team spirit, and their flexibility. This tournament demands so much of you because stylistically every team is really different and that might be true of every tournament, but you don’t normally have to play multiple games in a day, five days in a row. And constantly having to change how you’re going to play, scheme wise, and style wise. That’s what they did and proved to be the best in the world at it. So, I’m real proud of them.”
Lawson, who just finished her first season at Duke, collected her 10th gold medal in USA Basketball competition and seventh as a coach. It also marks her second gold medal in Olympic action as she was a part of the 2008 United States women’s national team that won gold in Beijing.
“It is incredible,” said Stefanie Dolson, who led the USA in points and rebounds with seven and nine in the gold medal game. “Basketball runs deep in the USA and to pull this off and win gold is incredible.”
Kelsey Plum added five points, Allisha Gray notched four points and grabbed six boards and Jackie Young added two points.
“An (Olympic) gold medal, that’s like top tier of my career,” said Gray. “I think the only way to top this is to win another gold medal. I don’t think any other accomplishment of my career can top this. The gold medal sits at the very top.”
Gray put the first point on the board with a free throw 10 seconds into the contest. After ROC tied it up, the USA strung together five-straight points for a 6-1 lead.
The USA and ROC battled back and forth, and with the USA ahead 9-5, the Americans scored a pair of free throws and a 1-pointer to go up 12-5 with 3:53 on the clock. A quick 2-pointer and two more points from ROC cut the USA’s lead to 12-9. ROC was in foul trouble, however, and was whistled for a ninth at 3:07. Young stepped to the line and calmly sunk both her attempts to give her side a 14-9 lead.
ROC came within three points four more times, including the final 18-15 score, but the USA proved too strong and too resilient for the ROC to overcome.
In its semifinal earlier in the evening, the USA held off a tough French (5-4) squad for a 18-16 semifinal win.
Against France, Gray and Plum finished with six points apiece, Dolson scored five and grabbed eight rebounds, while Young added a point.
The U.S. never trailed in the game and was up by four points three times, the last came after Gray scored to make it 12-8 with 4:12 left in the game. France would not back down, however, and rallied back to knot the game at 16-all with 1:07 left on the clock. With 34 ticks remaining, France was whistled for its seventh foul, and Gray scored one of her two tries from the line to push the USA ahead 17-16. Plum scored the USA’s final point from the line with five seconds remaining.
With two seconds left, the ball went out of bounds to France, which called for a timeout. Needing a 2-pointer to send the game into overtime, France’s final shot was off the mark, and the USA advanced to play for gold.
The USA forced six turnovers, won the rebounding battle 18-15 and Gray, Plum and Dolson all recorded a blocked shot.
For the tournament, Plum led all scorers with 6.1 ppg., while Dolson was sixth at 5.7 ppg. and Gray was ninth at 5.3 ppg. Additionally, Gray led all competitors in blocked shots (1.0 bpg.) and tied for the lead in defensive rebounds (3.9 rpg.); Plum and Dolson were No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in 1-point shooting percentage at 70.0% and 69.0%; while Dolson was third in defensive rebounds at 3.7.
As a team, the USA was No. 1 in six statistical categories, including points per game (19.1), defensive rebounds (12.2 rpg.) and 1-point shooting percentage (62.0%).