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The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, August 4, 2021
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The unstoppable Breanna Stewart
If it weren’t so remarkable, it would be boring by now, this ability Breanna Stewart has to find another level when her teams need it the most. Not just for a single play, or a late rally.
She comes out in key moments, again and again, and stomps opponents before they have a chance to register an objection.
So it was on Tuesday or Wednesday (pick your time zone) against Australia, in a 79-55 win over an Australia team that defeated Team USA just a few weeks ago.
“It’s crunch time,” said Stewart after it was over. “It’s win or go home, and I think we’ve struggled a little bit with how we started in pool play games, and I wanted to make sure I came out aggressive on both ends of the court.”
She shot 8-for-10 from the field, 23 points in 23 minutes. But this only begins to capture her performance — a clear determination that this wasn’t going to be a close game. She added five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal.
More to the point, she was everywhere, anticipating, deflecting, flying out at Australian shooters on one end, flashing to the open spaces on the other end. She had one turnover, total, for all her aggression. Team USA ran off 17 unanswered in the first, and by the end of the quarter, led 26-12. There simply wasn’t going to be a close game. Australia shot 30 percent for the game, and did so on contested shots all night.
I’ve said before, and I continue to believe, that we may be underappreciating Breanna Stewart, for all her championships and individual accomplishments, because she has the unfortunate habit of so thoroughly draining the will of her opponents early on that the opportunity to hit a late, highlight-reel shot to preserve a win simply doesn’t happen for her teams.
This is a feature, not a bug of her greatness. And now, she can do it two more times, and she’ll have herself another gold medal, all before turning 27.