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Aug. 23, 2008

Lisa Leslie and the U.S. women’s basketball team were once again too good for Australia at the Olympics.

Leslie capped off her illustrious Olympic career with a fourth straight gold medal scoring 14 points in a 92-65 victory against Australia on Saturday night. She joined former teammate Teresa Edwards as the only basketball players ever to win four gold medals.

“I visualized having a fourth gold medal,” Leslie told NBC. “I’ve been able to represent my country since I was 24 years old. It’s been just awesome.”

Russia took the bronze medal beating host China 94-81 as Becky Hammon scored 22 points.

The Aussies have now lost to the Americans in the gold medal game in the past three Olympics with all three defeats coming by double-digit margins.

Australia figured this was its best shot to beat the Americans as Penny Taylor and Erin Phillips missed the first half of the WNBA season so that they could train for the Beijing Games. Lauren Jackson left the Seattle Storm two weeks before the Olympic break so she could join her teammates.

Even with their extra training and Taylor returning to the starting lineup after missing the semifinals with a sprained right ankle, the Australians just couldn’t match the Americans’ depth.

Kara Lawson led the U.S. with 15 points, Candace Parker added 14, and Sylvia Fowles added 13 as the American reserves outscored Australia’s 59-11.

Trailing 13-10 late in the first quarter, U.S. coach Anne Donovan inserted her second unit, led by Lawson. Once again, the bench delivered just as it had throughout the Olympics with Lawson scoring the first six points of a 12-2 run to close the quarter as the U.S. took a 22-15 lead.

Then Parker, who has had a relatively quiet Olympics averaging only 8.7 points, took over. She scored eight of the Americans’ 10 points to open the second quarter, including two three-point plays. On her second, the 6-foot-4 forward took the ball from the top of the key, went through her legs and drove to the basket for a layup – a play that thrilled the men’s basketball players watching from the stands and even had LeBron James rising to his feet to stand on his seat.

Lawson closed the half with five straight points to give the U.S. a 47-30 lead, capping the Americans’ most impressive half in Beijing. The U.S. shot 63 percent (19-for-30) and held the Aussies to just 22 percent (8-for-37).

Jackson tried her best to rally Australia in the third quarter, but the Aussie could get no closer than 12 in the second half. Jackson finished with a game-high 20 points to lead Australia.

Leslie ended her Olympic career by fouling out with 6:33 left in the game. She left to a loud ovation from the crowd and hugged her teammates.

The U.S. has won 33 straight games in the Olympics with the last loss coming to the Unified team in the semifinals of the 1992 Barcelona Games.