ISTANBUL — Maya Moore scored 18 points and the U.S. beat Spain 77-64 to win its second straight gold medal at the women’s world championship Sunday.
Lindsay Whalen added 12 points for the United States (6-0), which hasn’t lost in a gold medal game in the world championship since 1983, when it was beaten by the Soviet Union 84-82. Except for a hiccup in 2006 when the Americans lost to Russia in the semifinals, they have won every Olympic and world championship game since 1996. If not for that upset in Brazil, the U.S. would have five straight world titles.
Sue Bird added another gold medal to her résumé, becoming the most-decorated player in world championship history.
Bird has won three gold medals and a bronze.
“It was a great win for us,” Bird said. “We had one goal the entire time this team’s been together, and that’s win a gold medal. A lot of people see a lot of talent and think it’s going to be easy, and it’s not. Whenever you can win a gold medal and it’s a tough journey, everyone’s happy. I’m definitely proud of this team.”
The Americans jumped out to a 13-point lead in the first 41/2 minutes. Spain (5-1) could only get within seven the rest of the way.
Moore, who was chosen tournament MVP, was the key in that early burst, scoring 11 points during the opening 18-5 run. Her 3-pointers barely moved the net as the Americans blitzed Spain, which was making its first appearance in the championship game.
“It’s always a focus, we want to punch first,” Moore said. “I put pressure on myself and the starting five, we put pressure on ourselves to get a good start, set the tone for the game.”
Behind strong offensive rebounding, the Spaniards cut it 24-17, but then Whalen took over. She had nine points during a 13-0 run by the Americans spanning the end of the first and start of the second quarter to make it a 20-point game. Whalen ended the first quarter with a spectacular drive that ended with a floater in the lane right before the buzzer. During the burst, Diana Taurasi threw a pinpoint pass to a streaking Seimone Augustus, a former LSU star, for another lay-in and the U.S. was off and running.
Augustus scored 10 points and had six rebounds.
“It’s sweet to have a silver medal around your neck as we are one step closer to a gold,” said Sancho Lyttle, who led Spain with 16 points. “But it also hurts because we know we were almost there.”
While Taurasi scored only six points, she had eight assists. More importantly Taurasi was part of a stellar defensive effort by the U.S. on Spain’s star Alba Torrens. Torrens scored 28 points in Spain’s semifinal win over Turkey but was held scoreless for the first 26 minutes Saturday.
The Americans led 48-29 at the half. It was more of the same in the second half for the U.S., which led by 25 points before Spain closed the game with a 14-2 run.
In other games Sunday, Australia routed Turkey 74-44 to win the bronze medal. Canada topped China 61-53 to finish fifth and France beat Serbia 88-74 for seventh place.