(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
The U.S. cruised through group play in women’s basketball while Australia was tested on several occasions.
The top two teams in the world took different routes to get there, but emerged undefeated.
The Americans will face Japan in the quarterfinals Tuesday. It's the first time the two teams have met in the Olympics since 1996 and the first time that Japan has reached the knockout stage since then. Other quarterfinal matchups include Australia against Serbia, Canada and France and Spain versus Turkey.
Geno Auriemma was impressed with what he's seen from Japan.
“They're big, talented, tough,” Auriemma said. "It's going to be hard as they're really, really good, and it's the quarterfinals of the Olympics and it's supposed to be hard."
Japan guard Asami Yoshida meets with supporters Saturday after a win over France at the Rio Olympics. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Australia came into the Olympics expected to be the only real challenge the U.S. might face. The Opals finished group play unbeaten, but had to rally from double-digit deficits against both Japan and Belarus. With 6-foot-8 Liz Cambage leading the way along with veterans Penny Taylor and Erin Phillips, the Aussies are a potential threat.
From left, Australia center Liz Cambage, guard Tessa Lavey (4), center Marianna Tolo (14) and guard Penny Taylor cheer as they wrap up group play. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
They'll have to first get by Olympic newcomer Serbia. The Serbs struggled in pool play before winning their last two games. The 2015 Euro champions are just starting to hit their stride.
Canada has already won more games than in any of its previous Olympics and was the only team to hold the U.S. under 100 points.
“Advancing is great, but we had bigger goals in mind,” Canada’s Kia Nurse said. “We are trying to win the first medal in women’s basketball in the history of Canada basketball.”
France is the defending silver medalists from the London Games, but definitely is not the same team that made that run as the French are missing guard Celine Dumerc, who injured her ankle just before the start of the Olympics.
Spain has been led by star Alba Torrens and Florida State guard Leticia Romero. The 2014 world champion runner-ups have never won an Olympic medal nor has Turkey. Lara Sanders, who starred at North Carolina when she was known as LaToya Pringle, is the tournament's second leading scorer averaging 22.0 points.