After a tight game with France in the semifinal, the U.S. women came out to send a message early in the final in the new Olympic sport of 3x3 basketball.
No easy buckets.
The U.S. defense simply suffocated the ROC's scorers to jump out to an early lead and made smart drives to the hoop to put the ROC in foul trouble, converting for an 18-15 win that wasn't as close as the score would indicate.
Chicago Sky post player Stefanie Dolson dominated the glass with nine rebounds and scored seven points, including four free throws after drawing a steady stream of fouls. Kelsey Plum, the team's sparkplug throughout the tournament, added five points despite missing all three of her 2-point shots.
In fact, 2-point shooting was the only thing the U.S. did not do well in this final, missing all seven of their shots, including an ill-advised attempt by Dolson.
But the defense made the difference. Allisha Gray was the stopper as the U.S. held Olga Frolkina, who led the tournament in scoring average coming into the game, to a single point.
Despite being relatively inexperienced in the discipline, the U.S. women came out on fire in the tournament with a 17-10 win over France. Two more easy wins followed until the ROC stayed close on the way to a 20-16 U.S. win. Italy and China also gave the U.S. good games, and Japan beat the U.S. in the last group game, albeit after the Americans had already clinched their bye to the semifinals.
In the final, the U.S. missed plenty of early shots and led 4-1 after three minutes. With Dolson gathering every rebound and the defense stopping challenging every shot, it hardly mattered. The U.S. pushed the lead to five points and then to seven points at 12-5. Russia scored four straight to narrow the lead, but Gray stopped that streak, and Dolson hit two free throws to push the lead to 17-12.
Yulia Kozik hit a 2-pointer from behind the arc to once again get the ROC within three, but Dolson scored inside with 31 seconds left, and the U.S. denied the ROC until giving up a meaningless 1-point shot just before the buzzer.
Plum, a member of the World Cup-winning 3x3 team in 2018, recovered from an Achilles injury suffered last year with her WNBA team, the Las Vegas Aces. The team also dealt with more recent adversity, with Plum's Las Vegas teammate Jackie Young replacing Katie Lou Samuelson just before the Games due to Samuelson's positive COVID-19 test.
China beat France 16-14 to take the bronze medal.
In the men's competition, the ROC surprised Serbia 21-10 in the semifinals and advanced to face Latvia. The final was a barnburner, with Latvia hindered by an injury to Edgar Krumins after his shoe tore apart, reminiscent of what happened to Zion Williamson in his one year at Duke. Forced to play with no healthy bench player, Latvia outhustled the ROC and won on a 2-pointer by Karlis Lasmanis to take Latvia to the magic 21 points to end the game immediately for a 21-18 win.
Serbia took the men's bronze with a 21-10 win over Belgium.