For one half, Australia not only hung with the United States basketball team, but looked like the better squad on Wednesday night.
Australia’s ball movement and defense was better than the USA’s for much of the first half, and the Boomers led 41-26 with five minutes remaining in the second quarter.
But the United States went on a 16-4 run to close the half, buckling down on defense and getting good performances by Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Jayson Tatum and Jrue Holiday to erase the double-digit deficit going into halftime and trailed only 45-42.
Then the United States simply flipped the switch in the third quarter, as it has often done during the second half of these Olympics, outscoring Australia 32-10 to take a commanding 74-55 lead into the fourth quarter, one that proved insurmountable for Australia as the USA won 97-78 to advance to the gold medal game.
Durant, Holiday and Booker were the stars in the third quarter, with Booker scoring 11 points, Durant adding eight and Holiday scoring six. Durant finished the game with 23 points, leading all scorers. Booker had 20 and Holiday and Khris Middleton each had 11.
Former Weber State star Damian Lillard had five points, three rebounds and an assist in 17 minutes, 10 seconds of action.
Utah Jazz guard Joe Ingles scored nine points on 3-of-5 shooting and also had two rebounds and two assists for Australia. Former Jazz guard Dante Exum was Australia’s leading scorer at halftime with 10, and he finished with 14 plus four rebounds, two assists and a steal.
The United States will play Ingles’ Jazz teammate Rudy Gobert and France in the gold medal game after France eked past Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic and Slovenia 90-89 in the other semifinal on Thursday morning.
Ingles and Australia will face Slovenia in the bronze medal game.
Rudy Gobert and France beat Luka Doncic and Slovenia to advance to gold medal game
Gobert and France have not lost a game so far and have already beat the United States once in these Olympics. They will have a chance to do it again on the biggest stage of them all — the gold medal game.
France withstood a triple-double from Slovenia’s Luka Doncic as Nicolas Batum blocked Klemen Prepelic’s shot with two seconds left — with France up one — to win the game.
Doncic was incredible, as he has been all Olympics, scoring 16 points, dishing out 18 assists and grabbing 10 rebounds. Mike Tobey led Slovenia in scoring with 23 points.
Gobert scored nine points in France’s win and had 16 rebounds, four blocked shots, three assists and a steal. Nando de Colo scored 25 points for France, with Evan Fournier contributing 23.
The gold medal game between the United States and France is on Friday at 8:30 p.m. MDT. Ingles and Australia play Doncic and Slovenia for the bronze medal on Saturday at 5 a.m. MDT.
Utah native Nathaniel Coleman wins silver in sport climbing
Murray native Nathaniel Coleman won the silver medal in the debut of climbing as an Olympic sport.
Coleman took second, an incredible result for the Utahn, finishing behind gold medalist Alberto Ginés López of Spain and in front of Jakob Schubert of Austria.
Coleman just made the cut during Tuesday’s qualification round, finishing in eighth (only the top eight athletes qualified for the final) but made the most of his opportunity on Thursday morning.
The Utah native finished sixth in speed climbing, the first event of the day, after he lost his quarterfinal matchup against France’s Mickaël Mawem, who climbed the course in 6.36 seconds compared to Coleman’s 6.45.
Coleman placed first in the bouldering final, with the separation from the competition coming in the second round as reached the top of two of the three boulders,
In the last event, the lead final, Coleman placed fifth, reaching the 34th hold. It was good enough to take the silver medal.
Eddy Alvarez, USA baseball beat South Korea, reach gold medal game
Former Salt Lake Community College baseball player Eddy Alvarez and the United States beat South Korea 7-2 on Thursday morning, advancing to the gold medal game against Japan.
The USA lost to Japan 7-6 in extra innings in the second round Monday and was knocked to the repechage (losers’) bracket — meaning it would have to win two games to get to the gold medal game.
The United States did just that, beating the Dominican Republic and South Korea to set up a rematch against Japan — this time for gold. The gold medal contest is only one game, meaning the team that comes from the losers’ bracket only has to win once, not twice as is common in other tournaments.
In Thursday morning’s contest between the USA and South Korea, a five-run sixth inning broke open the game. The United States held a 2-1 lead heading into the frame.
Mark Kolozsvary hit an RBI single to get the scoring started for the USA in the sixth inning. Jack Lopez hit an RBI single and Alvarez grounded out but scored Kolozsvary. Tyler Austin finished off the inning with a 2-RBI single, and the United States was up 7-1. South Korea only scored once, and the USA advanced.
Alvarez finished the game 1-for-4 with an RBI.
Japan — undefeated in the Olympics — and the United States will play for the gold medal on Saturday at 4 a.m. MDT.
8/6, 8:30 p.m. MDT: Damian Lillard (Team USA, former Weber State basketball player) and Rudy Gobert (Team France, Utah Jazz player), USA vs. France, men’s basketball gold medal game
8/7, 4 a.m. MDT: Eddy Alvarez (Team USA, former Salt Lake Community College baseball player), vs. Japan, gold medal game
8/7, 5 a.m. MDT: Joe Ingles (Team Australia, Utah Jazz player), men’s basketball vs. Slovenia, bronze medal game