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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Good as gold: US women win 6th straight Olympic hoops title

Members of the United States women’s basketball team pose their gold medals after their win over Spain on Saturday. (Eric Gay / Associated Press)
By Doug Feinberg Associated Press

RIO DE JANEIRO – Geno Auriemma and Diana Taurasi shared a long, emotional embrace. Mission accomplished.

The dominant U.S. women’s basketball team did what was expected, winning a sixth consecutive Olympic gold medal and doing it in impressive fashion. In yet another rout, the U.S. dismantled Spain 101-72 on Saturday.

Taurasi and the Americans played nearly flawless basketball in Rio, and were never challenged. They have won 49 consecutive games in the Olympics with only one of those decided by single digits.

“It’s amazing isn’t it? I mean when you think, that’s 20 years of 20 years,” Auriemma said. “You know the first one was ’96 and here we are 2016. It’s mindboggling when you think about it what this team has been able to accomplish, this program of the USA Basketball program. There is such a level of expectation, there’s such a level of respect for the people at the very top.

“We’re doing stuff that may never be done again.”

Even with that kind of sustained success by some very talented U.S. teams, this may be the best women’s basketball squad ever assembled. The team won by nearly 40 points a game, but fell short of the record 102.4 points the 1996 team averaged.

But if this isn’t the best ever, it’s close.

Taurasi puts the 2016 group at the top of the list.

“I mean I’m not just saying talent-wise. I’m not saying margin of victory. I’m saying this is the most determined, unselfish team I’ve ever been on – hands down,” the four-time gold medalist said.

There never really was any doubt that the U.S. would win the gold in Rio. The only question was by how much.

Still, closure to their journey Saturday had Auriemma and Taurasi both fighting back tears.

“I think it was a very emotional time. When you’re around these players and you’re around Sue (Bird) and Diana and Tamika (Catchings), and you know that this maybe their last and you’re able to send them out, it’s like graduating seniors back home,” Auriemma said. “And at the same time, you’ve got three young players who’ve never been here before. They get to go home with their first gold medal ever.

“There’s just a lot of emotions running through our team and running through our locker room.”

Unlike their semifinal win over France when the Americans looked discombobulated for a half, the U.S. was more fluid offensively. It helped having Bird back in the lineup. The four-time gold medalist and team captain missed the semifinal game with a sprained right knee capsule. She wasn’t 100 percent Saturday, but was good enough.

The U.S., which beat Spain by 40 in a preliminary round game, got off to a slow start and only led 21-17 after the first quarter. The Americans were up 27-24 in the second quarter before getting going.

Auriemma turned to something very familiar to him to spark the Americans.

The UConn coach put his five former Huskies players on the court at the same time for the first time in the Olympics and that group started the 16-3 run that blew it open. Breanna Stewart got the spurt started with two free throws. Taurasi then hit consecutive 3-pointers as the Americans scored 10 straight.