Is this U.S. women's basketball team better than the previous four that also won Olympic gold? "We accomplished the same thing they did and I don't know if that separates us. I think it just makes us equal," said politically correct coach Geno Auriemma.


LONDON - With smiles on their faces and gold medals hanging from their necks, Diana Taurasi gathered Tamika Catchings and Sue Bird together late Saturday night at North Greenwich Arena.

The three shook hands.

Who knows what time and upcoming talent will do to the pact the players made to return for a fourth Olympics at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games? But this much is as clear and convincing as the U.S. women's basketball team's 86-50 victory over France: What a run it's been and remains.

"I usually don't get very emotional when we win," Taurasi said. "But for some reason, when I was walking through the arena afterward, it hit me: You know this might be my last. It also might not be. But after three of them, they're really hard, even if you win by 30.

"The whole process is really difficult to try to get 12 really good players to buy into one thing. It takes a lot of effort and sacrifice. But in the end, we succeeded."

The U.S. posted its 41st straight Olympic triumph and collected an unprecedented fifth straight gold medal and seventh overall.

Fittingly, all 12 players scored, a testament to the depth that defined this 8-0 run with an average margin of victory of 34.3 points.

Saturday's 36-point victory marked the largest margin for a gold-medal game in Olympic history.

Candace Parker's 21 points and 11 rebounds led the balanced offensive effort, and swarming defense forced France into 28 percent shooting with 21 turnovers. Captain Celine Dumerc, who helped lead France to its first-ever basketball medal, managed just 2-for-10 shooting and often couldn't initiate offense, thanks to harassing defense from Taurasi and company.

Parker's dominant second quarter featured 11 points, including six straight that featured a coast-to-coast drive and nifty finger roll to close.

"Candace was huge," Bird said. Parker averaged 10.5 points, one of four players to score in double figures in these Olympics. Taurasi led with a 12.4 average.

And when it ended, emotion washed over all.

"For me, Dee and Catch, it's pretty special to experience this three different times," Taurasi said. "They're great players. They're great people. It's been a good ride.

"We had a handshake. I don't know what handshakes mean. Ask me in three years. It'll depend on how I feel. There's so much talent in the U.S. There might be some little point guard who comes up and kicks my butt."

Taurasi will be 34 and Bird 35 for the 2016 Games. Catchings, the oldest player on this team, will be 37.

Granted, the program remains in capable hands. This year's team got huge contributions from the Parker (26), Maya Moore ad Tina Charles (both 23).

But long after the handshake, Taurasi remained in Catchings' ear.

"I said this is my last one, but Diana is yelling, 'One more! One more!'" Catchings said, laughing.

"This is likely to be my last one. And that makes it special."