The U.S. women’s basketball team clinched a berth in the 2016 Olympics, beating Spain 77-64 in the World Championships final in Istanbul on Sunday.
The U.S. captured its second straight World title and will try for a sixth straight Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in two years.
Maya Moore scored a game-leading 18 points. Lindsay Whalen added 12 off the bench.
Brittney Griner scored 11 points in her first global championship final.
Moore was tournament MVP. Griner made the all-tournament quintet with Moore.
In Turkey, the Americans won all six of their games by at least 12 points, which they had not done at a World Championships since 1986.
U.S. coach Geno Auriemma‘s top lineup in Turkey included four of his former UConn players — Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Moore and Tina Charles — and Griner.
A great challenge moving forward will fall on Bird, 33, attempting to become the oldest U.S. woman since Lisa Leslie in 2008 to make an Olympic team. Bird will be in competition with Tulsa Shock guards Odyssey Sims, 22, and Skylar Diggins, 24, for playing time and roster spots. Diggins was among the final cuts for the World Championships team. Sims made it to Worlds and came off the bench.
In Rio, the U.S.’ biggest competition should come from longtime nemesis Australia. The Americans beat the Aussies 82-70 in the semifinals Saturday, with Australia missing its top two players from the 2012 Olympics due to injuries (Lauren Jackson, Liz Cambage).
France, the Olympic silver medalist, handed the U.S. its first loss since 2011 in an exhibition game two weeks ago. The U.S. then beat France by 22 points in the quarterfinals Friday.
Spain is a rising threat with former WNBA All-Star Sancho Lyttle and Alba Torrens. Both made the all-tournament team.
Russia, the last team to beat the U.S. at a Worlds or Olympics in 2006, did not qualify for this year’s World Championships. It lost six-time WNBA All-Star and naturalized citizen Becky Hammon to retirement.
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