SYDNEY -- Team USA wasn't pleased with how it played at times in its 33-point win Thursday over a gritty Serbia squad in the 2022 FIBA World Cup quarterfinals, no matter the final score.
But in Friday's semifinal, the Americans didn't leave any ambiguity about how strong they're looking in their quest to earn their fourth consecutive World Cup championship, demolishing Canada 83-43 to advance to the gold-medal game Saturday at 2 a.m. ET. They'll play China -- which beat Australia in the other semifinal 61-59 -- in a rematch of their group stage meeting, which the U.S. won by 14.
Top-ranked USA scored the first 15 points of Friday's game and never looked back, holding Canada -- the No. 4 team in the FIBA world rankings -- to a seven-point first quarter and an eight-point third period, as well as 22% shooting from the field.
The United States has now won 29 consecutive World Cup games, dating back to the bronze-medal match in 2006. Team USA has dropped just one game in a major international competition (World Cup and Olympics) since 1994.
Playing in its second World Cup semifinal and first since 1986, Team Canada had surpassed many expectations this tournament, finishing second in Group B after a ninth-place finish at the Tokyo Olympics that prompted the team to part ways with its former coach.
With Victor Lapeña now at the helm, the team found success defensively, but that intensity wasn't present from the get-go against the U.S.
On Friday, the U.S. became the first team to hold an opponent to under 50 points in a World Cup semifinal and recorded the largest margin of victory (40) for that round of the event.
"I think that we weren't happy with the way that we started yesterday against Serbia," reigning World Cup MVP Breanna Stewart said. "There were moments that we played well, but there were a lot of moments that we didn't, and really making sure that that was the point of emphasis today. It was the way that we started the game, especially with our starters, that five, we wanted to make sure that we set the tone for the entire game."
Canada will face home team Australia for the bronze medal at 11 p.m. ET Friday.
The USA held Canada scoreless on its first nine shots before the Canadians finally saw one go through the basket. Shakira Austin's free throws put the U.S. up 27-7 at the end of the first quarter, and once the starters were reinserted into the game midway through the second, the U.S. kicked things into a next gear, entering halftime up 45-21.
It wasn't a flawless first 20 minutes for Team USA -- it committed nine turnovers -- but its defense, which has been its calling card this tournament, held steady to build its lead.
"I was really pleased with our team's attention to detail in the scouting report. Canada's had a terrific tournament," USA national team coach Cheryl Reeve said. "I wanted them to make sure they understood what they just did and how hard they made it for Canada to score the ball. And Canada's a very good defensive team, so that was a quality win for us. Our goal is to win a gold medal, and we're in position to do that."
A 22-8 third quarter, capped by a buzzer-beater half-court heave from Sabrina Ionescu, extended the USA lead to 67-29.
The USA's three-headed monster of Stewart (17 points), A'ja Wilson (15 points, 12 rebounds) and Kelsey Plum (14 points) combined to outscore Canada 46-43, while Alyssa Thomas added 10 points.
The new-look Team USA returns to its usual spot in the gold-medal game despite having eight players on its roster who had never appeared in a World Cup before. Five of its 12 players arrived in Sydney shortly after the WNBA Finals, with the three champion Las Vegas Aces players missing the first two games of the tournament
"I mean, it's not easy to get here," Jewell Loyd said. "It may sometimes seem like that, but it's really not easy for us to get here, and with a new team and new faces, it's exciting."
Two-way wing Kahleah Copper, who started multiple games this tournament, missed the semifinal with a left hip injury she suffered in the quarterfinal. Reeve said that there's "a chance" she'll take the court Saturday and that she is considered questionable.