Diana Taurasi scored 21 points and the U.S. women's basketball team beat Russia 67-52 on Thursday to advance to its fourth straight Olympic gold medal game.
The Americans will face either Australia or China on Saturday as they try to win an unprecedented fourth straight gold.
The U.S. had been averaging 99.2 points as they cruised through the first six games, winning by 43 points a contest. However the Americans hadn't played a team as good as Russia, which had been inconsistent during the Olympics, barely winning games in pool play.
The Russians gave the Americans their closest game of the Olympics.
For nearly 23 minutes Russia gave the U.S. all it could handle taking a 38-33 lead on Maria Stepanova's bankshot with 7:17 left in the third quarter. Then the Americans took over, scoring the next 12 points. Tina Thompson, who had 15 points, hit a tough turnaround to start the run. A 3-pointer by Katie Smith and Taurasi and two layups by Thompson and Lisa Leslie gave the U.S. a 45-38 cushion.
Stepanova finally ended Russia's drought with a foul line jumper with 3:25 left in the period it was the last points they'd score in the period as the U.S. led 48-40 after three quarters.
Russia could get no closer than nine in the fourth quarter as the U.S. pulled away.
Stepanova scored 14 points to lead Russia, which will play in the bronze medal game.
U.S.-born Becky Hammon, a naturalized Russian citizen, didn't score until making a free throw with 9:30 left in the game. She didn't hit her first basket until 2:52 was left in the game and Russia was down by 14. She finished the game with three points going 1-for-6 from the field.
After running through its group, the U.S. routed South Korea in the quarterfinals. The only problem they had in the first seven games was in the first 3 minutes in the opener against the Czech Republic when the U.S. found themselves down 13-2. They went on to win by 40.
On Thursday, the U.S. had a first half to forget as they missed a half-dozen layups, shot poorly from the foul line, and turned the ball over at an alarming rate. Only the Americans' defense kept them in the game.
Leading 23-21, Russia went on a 7-2 run capped by Stepanova's layup with 2:29 left in the second quarter to give the Russians a 30-23 lead. The Americans scored the next 10 points, including two 3-pointers by Taurasi to take a 33-30 advantage. The U.S. had a chance to go into the break up at least by three, but Cappie Pondexter committed the 13th turnover of the half and Irina Osipova scored a layup on the other just before the buzzer to make it 33-32 at the half.
The U.S. found itself in a new position after the first quarter _ trailing. Through pool play and the quarterfinals, the Americans never trailed after the first period. They couldn't hold onto the ball Thursday, committing 10 turnovers in the first period, most coming on sloppy play. Leslie had half of them as the U.S. found itself down 16-13 after the first.
The U.S. has won 32 straight games in the Olympics. Its last loss came to the Unified Team in the semifinals of the 1992 Barcelona Games.