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Golden girls: U. S. wins third straight World Cup title

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Layshia Clarendon of the United States, right, tries to score as Katie Ebzery of Australia blocks her during the Women's basketball World Cup final match between Australia and the U.S.A. in Tenerife, Spain, Sunday Sept. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Andres Gutierrez)

SAN CRISTOBAL DE LA LAGUNA, Spain (AP) — The United States continued its run of dominance on the biggest stages for women's basketball.

Brittney Griner scored 15 points to help the U.S. beat Australia 73-56 and win the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup on Sunday night.

It was the third consecutive World Cup title for the U.S., something the country had never accomplished in its illustrious history. The victory gave the U.S. 10 World Cup gold medals and was the 22nd win in a row overall for the Americans dating back to the bronze medal game in 2006. That was the same year that Australia won its only World Cup title. The Americans lost to Russia in the semifinals and haven't lost since in the World Cup or Olympics.

Diana Taurasi, who scored 13 points, helped the U.S. get off to a strong start with a 10-0 lead. Australia could only get within three the rest of the way. It was the first time in the tournament that the U.S. didn't trail in a game. As the final seconds wound down, Taurasi hugged all her teammates and coaches on the bench.

The victory gave Sue Bird a fourth World Cup gold medal and fifth medal overall in the tournament. Both are the most for any player. It also made Dawn Staley the first person ever to win a World Cup title as a player, assistant and head coach.

Breanna Stewart, who scored 10 points in the final, was named the MVP of the tournament.

Australia's Liz Cambage, who came into the game averaging 27.2 points in the tournament, was held to just seven. She remained the No. 1 enemy of the Spanish fans, who jeered and whistled every time she touched the ball. Cambage keyed Australia's win over the host nation in the semifinals. Spain won the bronze medal, beating Belgium 67-60 earlier Sunday.

The U.S. led 35-27 at the half and didn't give Australia any chance to come back, scoring the first nine points of the third quarter.

This was Australia's best finish at the World Cup since 2006.

TIP-INS

  • The Americans remained unbeaten against Australia in Olympic and World Cup games, improving to 18-0. In the World Cup, the U.S. has 11 wins over Australia, although this was the first time the teams had met in the final. ... Sandy Brondello joined a select group of people to win a World Cup medal as both a coach and player. She starred for the Australians as a player in the 1990s before taking over the coaching job this year. ... With the win, the U.S. earns an automatic spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. FIBA is changing the qualifying format next year for the Olympics and World Cup. ... The Soviet Union won a record five World Cups titles from 1959 to 1975. ... Since the 1996 Olympic Games, the USA Basketball Women's National Team program will have posted a 100-1 record in major international competitions, winning six consecutive Olympic gold medals (1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016), five FIBA World Cup golds (1998, 2002, 2010, 2014, 2018), one FIBA World Cup bronze medal (2006) and one FIBA Americas Championship gold medal (2007).

RECORD BREAKER

  • Bird passed Staley's career U.S. mark for most assists at the World Cup. Bird fittingly got the record-breaking assist on a 3-pointer by Taurasi, her teammate since their days at UConn in the early 2000s.
  • Staley had 103 in her three World Cups while Bird now has 107. The U.S. coach had joked after the semifinal win that she would sit Bird for the gold medal game to keep the record. Bird arguably had it easier than Staley because FIBA changed the way it counted assists in 2014, giving one to a player if her pass led to free throws.

COMPANY OF ONE

  • Jewell Loyd became the first player to win a world championship in both 3-on-3 and 5-on-5. Loyd was part of the 2014 3-on-3 team that took gold.

SCOREBOARD

  • Spain beat Belgium 67-60 to win the bronze medal. Canada edged Nigeria 73-72 to finish seventh while France topped China 81-67 to come in fifth.

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