SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas nailed 13 points and 14 rebounds as an all-conquering United States close in on an 11th title after setting up a women’s basketball World Cup semifinal against Canada Thursday.
Guard Kelsey Plum added a game-high 17 points in an 88-55 pummeling of Serbia, with the three-time defending champions strong on both offense and defense.
They will meet Canada in Sydney on Friday after the world No. 4 swept past Puerto Rico, 79-60.
China face France, and host Australia — the beaten 2018 finalists — take on Belgium later Thursday in the other quarterfinal clashes.
The US victory made it a 10th consecutive World Cup that the Americans have gone undefeated before the Last Four, with coach Cheryl Reeve content despite a slow start, when they trailed for the first time all tournament, falling behind, 11-7.
“I thought Serbia executed their game plan and took us out of one of our largest identities in pool play, and that was scoring in the paint,” she said.
“But overall, I thought our response was really good. Once we got out of the first quarter, we adjusted a little bit and we found success. I thought our defense was really hard to play against.”
Little separated the two sides in the first frame, with the US taking a narrow 25-23 lead, shooting 57 percent to Serbia’s 48 percent.
The US has been brutal in punishing errors, and they stepped up a gear to dominate around the board, building a 50-33 half-time lead on the back of a 12-0 run.
Serbia, ranked 10, was shooting just 30 percent from the field and were held to only seven points in the third quarter, going more than eight minutes without scoring, before the Americans put another 22 points past them in the fourth to romp home.
“Serbia really tested us, they played super physical, more physical than we have seen all tournament,” Plum said.
“I felt early on their pressure bothered us, but we were able to get it under control and in the second quarter we held them to single digits, which is our identity and what we want to be going forward in this tournament.”
It was never going to be easy for the Serbs, with the US on a 28-game unbeaten streak, their longest since winning 26 from 1994-2006.
The only negative was Kahleah Copper being helped off with what looked like a groin injury, after a heavy collision.