SYDNEY — It’s been a long legacy of success for the U.S. women’s basketball team at the World Cup.
The names change over time, but the results do not.
Kelsey Plum had 20 points, Chelsea Gray had 16, and the United States beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 121-59 to break a team record for a World Cup winning streak.
The win was the Americans’ 27th straight World Cup game unbeaten since the 2006 semifinal against Russia. The US had won 26 straight from 1994-2006 until that game. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 consecutive victories from 1959-86.
“It’s amazing,” said Breanna Stewart, who has been part of the last three World Cup teams. “Obviously you’ve been here for some of it, but you understand the legends before who really started the story. No matter who plays on USA Basketball, it shows that we’re always chasing excellence.
“That streak doesn’t mean much now because we’re into the quarterfinals and we’re focusing on winning the gold medal, but it’s something you can hang your hat on later.”
Started by Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Sylvia Fowles, it has now been handed over to Stewart and Aja Wilson. An invisible legacy of excellence will soon end.
“The players change and you know, there was a lot of concern about who’s going to be next,” said American coach Sheryl Reeve. “Dawn Staley and Lisa Leslie were playing and there was concern about who was going to be next. Then Sue and (Taurasi) and then there were other great players. Now with this team, they’re saying, ‘Hey, we’re great, too.’
After going undefeated in pool play again, the US had not lost a game before the semifinals since 1983.
“When you put on this jersey, we know the responsibility. There’s more to it than just yourself,” Plum said. “Everybody puts pride aside. We have a common goal. We have some amazing players on this team.”
The Americans (5-0) won their pool play by an average of 46.2 points and trailed none. Now they wait to see who they will draw in the quarter finals.
As the United States cruised to a record 145 points in the World Cup over South Korea, the Americans didn’t match that number, but they put the game away in the first 10 minutes and turned it up a notch. 33-15.
The lead swelled to 63-31 at halftime. Bosnia and Herzegovina made one small run to start the third quarter, but the US scored the final 19 points of the season.
They still used a dominant interior performance in the paint led by Wilson, Stewart and Briana Jones to beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 84-28.
“It’s a big part of who we are,” Reeve said. “We know we’re going to be good no matter what the 90s we had yesterday and 84 and we’ve got the players who really understand the opportunities for that,” he said.
Jewell Lloyd, who said the group had landed, was lost in the United States. Kahleh Copper started in her place and finished with 11 points.
Nikolina Elez scored 19 points to lead the Bosniaks (0-5), who were playing in their first World Cup.