Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Highest of heights

U.S. coach Geno Auriemma jumps into the arms of first-time Olympian Brittney Griner, to Sylvia Fowles’ delight, after their 101-72 pasting of Spain.

Getty Images

U.S. coach Geno Auriemma jumps into the arms of first-time Olympian Brittney Griner, to Sylvia Fowles’ delight, after their 101-72 pasting of Spain.

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — What must it be like to compete against these women, the dozen who make up the U.S. basketball team? They are tall and strong, quick and agile, skilled and fierce.

The Rio Olympics have been defined, understandably, by Katie Ledecky and Simone Biles, by Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps. The truth: No athletes in Rio have been more dominant and peerless than the American women who play basketball. "I'm in awe," guard Seimone Augustus said, "all the time when I look around — at everyone."

Don't forget that, even after the latest laugher, a 101-72 victory over Spain on Saturday that gave the U.S. women's team its sixth straight gold medal. The Americans have raised standards in almost every way, making them almost unreachable, what with their 49th consecutive Olympic victory.

"We just keep pushing it up higher and higher," Olympic rookie Brittney Griner said. "I don't know how high it can go up. We just want it to keep going up. We don't want it to go down — at all."

There are so many ways to demonstrate the dominance: The Americans won their eight games by an average of 31.5 points. They shot 58 percent from the floor; their opponents shot 37 percent. They outrebounded their opponents by an average 20.5 boards per game. No other team in Rio has delivered in such a fashion. Indeed, the discussion centers more around whether any team ever has.

"Right now, we're at a real high level," coach Geno Auriemma said. "We're at a real high level that maybe nobody's ever seen before. We're doing stuff that may never be done again."

Part of that is because of the women's basketball program's remarkable ability to seamlessly hand off responsibilities from generation to generation. In the 2004 Games, Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Tamika Catchings were bit players on a squad that featured some of the sport's legends: Sheryl Swoopes, Lisa Leslie and Dawn Staley.

"We saw them not care about points," Bird said. "Not care about rebounds. Not care about any stat on the stat sheet."

That, in turn, became the way Taurasi, Bird and Catchings played on the national team. Saturday, each won her fourth gold medal. As important, they showed the first-time Olympians — Griner, Breanna Stewart and Elena Delle Donne — what qualities it takes to succeed on the Olympic team.

"They set an example that today, I think, a lot of it is missing," Auriemma said. "There's a lot of entitlement out there in sports today. You have three Hall of Fame players that don't feel like they're entitled to anything. No matter what they've done, they show up every day and feel like they have to earn it."

Highest of heights 08/20/16 [Last modified: Saturday, August 20, 2016 10:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Good news for Rays on Steven Souza Jr. as MRI shows 'no damage' to hip

    Blogs

    The Rays got good news today on RF Steven Souza Jr., as an MRI showed "no damage" to his left hip.

    Steven Souza Jr. #20 of the Tampa Bay Rays holds his leg after hurting himself trying to steal second base in the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on July 19, 2017 in Oakland, California.
  2. Bucs raise prices for single tickets to marquee games

    Blogs

    The Bucs will have single-game tickets for 2017 home games on sale July 28, with a new wrinkle: the best games will cost more for fans.

    Bucs fans cheer Jameis Winston after a victory in their final home game of the 2016 season. Individual tickets for the Bucs' three most coveted home games (against the Patriots, Bears and Giants) will cost more in 2017.
  3. RHP Alex Cobb feeling safer as Rays make playoff push

    The Heater

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throwing in the fourth inning of the game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Tampa Bay Rays at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla. on Tuesday, March 21, 2017.
  4. HomeTeam 100: Players 61-70

    Footballpreps

    Jefferson wide receiver Dontavius Smith during the game between Jefferson High School and Jesuit High School at Jesuit on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016, in Tampa, Fla.
  5. A second chance at life, away from the game he loved

    The Heater

    Dylan Delso, a catcher for the Tampa Bay Rays' Gulf Coast League team, displays his scar at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla., on Tuesday, June 20, 2017. On June 25, 2016 Delso fell backward down a flight of stairs, suffering a nearly fatal head injury that put him in a coma for eight days. He's finally back on the baseball field after a miraculous recovery.