Taurasi scores 26, helps US reach World Cup gold-medal game

Diana Taurasi scored 26 points, including hitting five 3-pointers, to help the U.S. beat Belgium 93-77 on Saturday in the semifinals of the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup.

Breanna Stewart added 20 points while Brittney Griner had 16 for the Americans, who will be trying to win a third straight gold medal at the worlds — something the country has never done.

The U.S. has won 21 consecutive World Cup games and will play Australia or Spain for the title Sunday.

Belgium, making its first appearance in the World Cup, was led by Emma Meesseman’s 23 points.

The Belgians already had surpassed their goal of reaching the quarterfinals. A bronze medal would be an excellent achievement.

Belgium hung around for 25 minutes behind the stellar play of Meesseman and solid outside shooting. The score was 52-52 midway through the third quarter before the U.S. closed the period with a 21-5 run. Griner, Stewart and Jewell Loyd keyed the spurt. Belgium came no closer than 14 the rest of the way.

Meesseman got her team going early, scoring 13 points in the opening quarter as Belgium shot 56 percent to lead 26-21 after one quarter. The U.S. rallied behind Taurasi and Elena Delle Donne, who had seven points in the second quarter to give the Americans a 40-39 halftime lead.

MILESTONE REACHED: The U.S. scored the 10,000th point in its World Cup history on the first basket of the game by Griner. No other team is close.

TIP-INS: Sue Bird had seven assists, matching her World Cup high, and she is now one short of tying Dawn Staley’s USA Basketball World Cup career record of 103. … Taurasi was two points short of matching her World Cup high of 28 set against Brazil in 2006.

SKIPPING THE WNBA SEASON: Meesseman decided to train with the Belgium team all year instead of playing for the Washington Mystics in the WNBA this past season. She didn’t second-guess her decision when the Mystics made the WNBA Finals for the first time. She was thrilled for her teammates — Delle Donne among them — but was happy with her choice to train.

UP NEXT:

Belgium: Bronze-medal game.

U.S.: Gold-medal game.

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