London, England (Sports Network) - The U.S. women's basketball team had no answer for Liz Cambage in the first half, but shut down the Australian center the rest of the way and earned an 86-73 victory to reach the gold medal game of the London Olympics.
Cambage scored 19 points in the first half and Australia shot 61 percent to open a 47-43 lead, but the Americans came out of the break with a stellar defensive effort. Cambage failed to score in the second half and the U.S. handed the Australians another crushing Olympic defeat.
The last three Olympics ended with the United States beating Australia in the gold medal game. The Americans extended their Olympic winning streak to 40 games and will try for a fifth straight gold medal on Saturday against France.
"We knew coming into the tournament that at some point if you want to win the Olympic gold medal that you have to beat Australia," USA coach Geno Auriemma said. "We knew that and whether you have to beat them in the semifinals or the final, it doesn't matter you still have to beat them. The gold medal game is Saturday night. Hopefully our players don't think this was the gold medal game because it was the semifinal game."
Tina Charles helped keep Cambage under wraps in the second half and finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in the victory. Diana Taurasi also scored 14, while Sue Bird kept the Americans in the game early with 10 first-half points and wound up with 13.
Lindsay Whalen scored just six points for the U.S., but they came at a critical juncture of the third quarter. She went on a personal 6-0 run to turn a 56-55 deficit into a five-point U.S. lead with 90 seconds left in the third.
The Americans went into the fourth with a 65-59 edge and opened the final period with an 11-5 burst. Bird's three from the left wing -- her lone bucket of the second half -- capped the surge and gave the U.S. a 76-64 lead with just over five minutes remaining.
Australia never got within single digits again.
Lauren Jackson contributed 14 points and 17 rebounds for Australia, which will play for bronze on Saturday. The Aussies have been eliminated by the U.S. in each of the last five Olympics. In addition to the previous three gold medal defeats, the Americans knocked them out in the semifinals of the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Cambage, who was 8-for-12 shooting in the first half, missed her lone field goal attempt in the second half. She added seven rebounds and committed seven of Australia's 20 turnovers.
The Americans scored the game's first four points, but Australia was undeterred and quickly tied it at 6-6. The Aussies led by as many as four in the first quarter before taking a 22-20 edge after 10 minutes. A 7-0 run gave Australia a 39-32 lead midway through the second and the U.S. managed to trim the deficit to four at the break.
08/09 17:49:41 ET