U.S. Beats Australia to Reach Olympic Women’s Basketball Final

Diana Taurasi and Tina Charles had 14 points each as the U.S. women’s basketball team rallied in the second half to beat Australia 86-73 and reach the gold-medal game of the Olympics.

Sue Bird added 13 points for the Americans, the defending champions, who trailed Australia 47-43 at halftime at North Greenwich Arena in London. The U.S. took a 57-56 lead with 2:36 remaining in the third quarter on a lay-up by Lindsay Whalen and never trailed again, reaching the event’s final for the fifth consecutive Olympics.

The Americans will meet Russia or France for the title on Aug. 11.

The U.S. team hasn’t lost an Olympic game since the semifinals in 1992, when it dropped a 79-73 decision to the Unified Team, made up of Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union. The U.S. followed that defeat with a victory over Cuba to win the bronze medal and is 40-0 in Olympic play since the loss, winning gold medals in each of the past four games.

The U.S. also won gold medals at the World Championships in 1998, 2002 and 2010. The team won bronze in 2006 when it lost in the semifinals to Russia.

In that stretch, Australia emerged as one of the U.S. team’s strongest opponents, winning the World Championship that escaped the Americans in 2006, bronze at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and silver in each of the past three Olympics. Australia is 31-8 in Olympic play since the start of the 1996 Games, with six losses coming to the U.S., three in gold-medal matches.

The U.S. team has three former Women’s National Basketball Association Most Valuable Players -- Tamika Catchings, Candace Parker and Taurasi -- and every player has been a WNBA All-Star at least once. The team returns nine players from the squad that won gold at the World Championships two years ago.

Elizabeth Cambage, picked second in the 2011 WNBA Draft by the Tulsa Shock, led Australia with 19 points.