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UConn in the Olympics: Bird, Taurasi help Team USA past Nigeria

USA 3x3 also took its first loss while Steph Labbé returned from injury.

Nigeria v United States of America Women’s Basketball - Olympics: Day 4 Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The USA women’s basketball team began its quest for a seventh straight gold medal with an 81-72 win over Nigeria on Tuesday morning. It was the 50th consecutive win in Olympic play for the Americans, a streak that dates back to 1992.

Sue Bird did not score but recorded 13 assists. Only one US player — A’ja Wilson — scored more than 13 points. Diana Taurasi — making a record 33rd Olympic appearance — scored 10 points in the first half and led the team with a +28 +/- in 23 minutes of action. Breanna Stewart finished with nine points and 11 boards while Tina Charles had six points and six rebounds. Napheesa Collier played an uneventful two minutes.

The US fell behind early due to a combination of missed shots and turnovers, as Nigeria jumped ahead, 8-1. A Taurasi three was the team’s first shot nearly four minutes in and it sparked an 11-0 run. Nigeria hung around and even took a 25-20 lead in the second quarter before the US ripped off a 23-0 run to lead 44-32 at the half. Nigeria made a late comeback bid but the US was in control and held on for the win.

The US will play next on Friday against Japan.

Bird’s swan song

After the US took down Nigeria, Bird confirmed these will be her final Olympic Games, according to the Washington Post.

While this has long been expected considering Bird is 40 years old and has dealt with injuries for much of the last few seasons, this is the first time she’s confirmed these will be her last Olympics.

USA 3x3 goes down

After a 6-0 start, USA 3x3 fell to host country Japan in their final group stage game, 20-18. The US had already clinched a spot in the semifinals on Monday, so the loss didn’t have much impact on the Americans.

Stef Dolson led the team with seven points and three rebounds. The US will play France in the semifinals at 4 a.m. EST on Wednesday with the bronze medal game at 7:45 a.m. EST and the gold medal game at 8:55 a.m. EST.

3x3 Basketball - Olympics: Day 4 Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Gabby Williams, France fall in opener

The France team which Gabby Williams joined this summer did not get off to an ideal start, losing 74-70 to Japan in their opener. Williams played a team-high 30 minutes finishing with nine points, five assists, four steals, four rebounds, and two blocks.

Williams nearly helped France pull off a late comeback with a steal and score with nine seconds left to get Les Blues within two but after France fouled to stop the clock with two seconds remaining, Japan hit both free throws to seal the win.

Next, France will take on Nigeria on Friday at 4:20 a.m. EST.

Labbé returns

After leaving Canada’s opening game with a rib joint injury and missing the next subsequent game, Steph Labbé returned to the starting lineup against Great Britain. Canada looked to be on their way to a 1-0 victory — and with it, becoming winners of Group E — before Great Britain found the equalizer in the 85th minute on a long-range effort that beat Labbé on the far post. The game ended in a 1-1 draw.

Canada still advances to the knockout round as the second-place team in the group and will face Brazil in the quarterfinals.

Before the game, Men In Blazers and Coca Cola released a short video with Labbé where she discussed her journey with the Canadian national team as well as mental health.

Looking ahead

Dolson and USA’s 3x3 team will need to get through France in the semifinals at 4:00 a.m. EST Wednesday before the Gold Medal Game at 8:55 a.m. The US already beat France 17-10 in their Olympic opener. Those games will be streamed on NBCOlympics.com.

In field hockey, two former UConn stars will go head-to-head when Róisín Upton’s Ireland squad takes on Cecile Pieper and Germany at 11:15 p.m. EST. Speaking of Germany, Niels Giffey and his team will take the court 9 p.m. EST against Nigeria.