After a tightly contested first half, the United States overwhelmed Japan in the second half en route to their ninth straight Olympic semifinal appearance.
Japan, who finished fourth in Group A, gave the United States all they could handle in the first half. The Japanese shot 50% and scored 23 points in each of the first two quarters, burying seven of 11 three-pointers in the process. The United States led 40-28 early in the second quarter, but Japan answered back with an 18-8 run that cut the lead to two with 1:29 left. The United States would respond with an 8-0 spurt, though, to take a ten-point halftime lead.
In the second half, the U.S. adjusted their defense and began to switch on screens, leading to a more contested shot selection by the Japanese. In the third quarter, the U.S. held Japan to 31% (5-16) shooting and they missed both of their three-point attempts. Meanwhile, the U.S. offense continued to produce at Mach-speed, using an early 10-0 run to jump ahead 66-50 with 6:12 remaining. The U.S. shot an astounding 85% (11-13) in the third.
The fourth quarter was arguably the most impressive ten-minute stretch the U.S. has played in Rio.
They started the quarter on a 12-0 run that spanned 3:48 while Japan went 0-6 from the floor. The drought ended with a Yuki Miyazawa three, the teams only one of the second half, before the United States went on an 8-0 burst. A Rui Machida two-point jumper with 3:50 left was the only other points Japan would score in the fourth quarter. The United States scored 29 in the final frame on 13-17 shooting.
Six players finished in double figures for the United States, including Diana Taurasi who hit five threes and scored 19, and Maya Moore, who finished with 13 and scored 12 of the team’s first 19 points. Elena Delle Donne, who did not play against China after being poked in the eye by a teammate during warm-ups, played 15 minutes and was third on the team in scoring with 11 points. Ramu Tokashiki led Japan with 14 points, while Mika Kurihara and Sanae Motokawa added 12 each.
The United States will face either Canada or France in Thursday’s semifinal.