U.S. topples China, 77-63

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Holder the United States surged into the women’s basketball World Cup quarterfinals on Saturday with a comfortable 77-63 victory over China in Sydney to extend their remarkable record.

After crushing Belgium and Puerto Rico, the Americans faced a trickier Group A test against an emerging China which was tipped to be the United States’ biggest threat to an 11th world title.

But the three-time defending champion led throughout in front of a capacity 21,000 crowd.

The mighty US notched its 25th consecutive win at the World Cup, stretching back to 2010, and became the first team to qualify for the final eight.

They set up their victory with a dominant 44-25 first-half before thwarting China’s late rally.

A’ja Wilson (20 points, eight rebounds) and Chelsea Gray (12 points, six rebounds) starred on their debuts in the 10-day tournament.

United States coach Cheryl Reeve praised her team’s defense, which stymied a China side who had hit the century mark in their previous wins against South Korea and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Our defense continues to be stellar. We were hard to play against and that’s our identity,” she said.

Li Meng (21 points) and Wang Siyu (17 points) led a gritty China, which fell to a 2-1 record.

“It was a big difference from the first two games. Our players will learn a lot from this game,” said China coach Zheng Wei.

Boasting youthful talent and a high-octane style, China was widely tipped to test the US.

But the Americans had all the answers and were boosted by the returns of Wilson, Gray and Kelsey Plum, who made their first appearances after arriving in Sydney jet-lagged early Friday following Las Vegas Aces’ victory in the Women’s National Basketball Association Finals.

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