CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The United States women's basketball team, led by University of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley, made their debut in Tokyo early Tuesday as they met Nigeria in group play.
A'ja Wilson had 19 points and 13 rebounds in her Olympic debut to help the U.S. beat Nigeria 81-72 on Tuesday in the opener for both teams. The win was the Americans' 50th consecutive victory in the Olympics dating back to a loss in the semifinals of the 1992 Barcelona Games.
Diana Taurasi, who was playing in her first game in nearly a month after suffering a hip injury, has competed in the last 33 of those victories to set a record for most games in the Olympics. She showed no ill-effects from the injury that sidelined her for the team's three exhibition games in Las Vegas two weeks ago. While she sat out, the U.S. suffered two rare losses; one to a WNBA All-Star team and the other Australia. Taurasi finished with 10 points, all coming in the first half.
Team USA is anchored by Sue Bird, who has more Olympic and World Cup medals than any other basketball athlete in history. Bird's list of accomplishments includes four straight Olympic gold medals with the U.S. posting an undefeated record each year.
For Dawn Staley, Tokyo was the first Olympics she has served as head coach for the United States after a successful playing career in international competition. She won three Olympic gold medals in 1996, 2000 and 2004. Stanley was named USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year for her performance in the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Staley was an assistant coach during the 2008 Olympics, serving under Anne Donovan, helping lead the U.S. to its fourth straight gold medal. Tokyo will be Staley's first Olympics as head coach of Team USA. Entering the tournament, Staley's head coaching record in international play is a perfect 30-0.