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US women's basketball team wins 6th straight Olympic gold medal

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RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 20 (Reuters) - The United States women's basketball team thumped Spain 101-72 to claim a sixth straight gold medal on Saturday to rubber-stamp their credentials as one of the greatest Olympic sporting dynasties of all time.

After a sloppy start that saw Spain lead much of the opening quarter, the U.S. finally settled into their familiar rhythm, turning a 10-0 run into a 17-point halftime lead.

From then on there was no way back for Spain as the U.S. extended their Olympic winning streak to a staggering 49-0.

Only two other teams can claim such a run of domination in an Olympic team sport.

The U.S. men's basketball team earned seven consecutive gold medals from 1936-1968 while India claimed six-straight men's field hockey titles from 1928-1956.

SEE MORE: Everything you need to know about the Rio Olympics

For Spain, the silver was their first in Olympic women's basketball. Earlier, Serbia beat France 70-63 in the bronze medal game.

With the victory Sue Bird, Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi joined former team mates Teresa Edwards and Lisa Leslie as the only players to win four gold medals in basketball.

"It's pretty incredible," said Taurasi. "We had the goal to win the gold medal but there is something more to it than that.

"It's not about one person, one coach, it's about how can we make this the best basketball team ever."

Taurasi and Lindsay Whalen paced the U.S. on the scoreboard, pouring in 17 points apiece, while Maya Moore potted 14.

Team USA captain Bird, who sat out the semi-finals with a knee injury, was back in the lineup, contributing three points and a pair of rebounds to the American cause.

Humbled 103-63 by the U.S. in preliminary round play, Spain had looked determined to offer more resistance in the final, holding a 17-14 lead late in the opening quarter.

But after Angel McCoughtry hit a layup and connected on two free throw attempts the U.S. never trailed again.

(Additional reporting Mary Milliken; Editing by Nina Chestney and Ken Ferris)

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See the best photos from Rio

30 PHOTOS
Best photos from the 2016 summer Olympics
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Best photos from the 2016 summer Olympics
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Simone Biles of the United States competes on the balance beam during Women's qualification for Artistic Gymnastics on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Jonas Valanciunas of Lithuania shoots over Marcus Vinicius Marquinhos of Brazil during a Men's preliminary round basketball game between Brazil and Lithuania on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Segun Toriola of Nigeria plays a Men's Singles second round match against Koki Niwa of Japan on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Riocentro - Pavilion 3 on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 06: Bret Bonanni #10 of United States shoots the ball against Croatia during the Men's Water Polo Preliminary Round - Group B match between the United States of America and Croatia at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 6, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Laura Giombini of Italy (R) reacts during the Women's Beach Volleyball preliminary round Pool D match against Jamie Lynn Broder and Kristina Valjas of Canada on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Beach Volleyball Arena on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Robert Gardos of Austria plays a Men's Singles second round match against Ovidiu Ionescu of Romania on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Riocentro - Pavilion 3 on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 09: Michael Phelps (L) of the United States leads Chad le Clos of South Africa in the Men's 200m Butterfly Final on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 07: Shu-Ching Hsu of Chinese Taipei competes during the Women's 53kg Group A weightlifting contest on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Riocentro - Pavilion 2 on August 7, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
2016 Rio Olympics - Beach Volleyball - Women's Preliminary - Beach Volleyball Arena - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 07/08/2016. Doaa Elghobashy (EGY) of Egypt and Kira Walkenhorst (GER) of Germany compete. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 08: Lilly King of the United States celebrates winning gold in the Women's 100m Breaststroke Final on Day 3 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 8, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 09: Simone Biles of the United States competes on the balance beam during the Artistic Gymnastics Women's Team Final on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 09: Ruolin Chen and Huixia Liu of China compete in the Women's Diving Synchronised 10m Platform Final on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 9, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10: Ning Ding of China in action during the Womens Table Tennis Singles Final match against Li Xiaoxia of China at Rio Centro onn August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10: Axel Augis of France competes on the horizontal bar during the Men's Individual All-Around final on Day 5 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 14: Linda Cerruti and Costanza Ferro of Italy compete in the Women's Duets Synchronised Swimming Free Routine Preliminary Round on Day 9 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 14, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 13: Jennifer Oeser of Germany competes in the Women's Heptathlon Long Jump on Day 8 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12: Matthew Glaetzer of Australia competes in the Men's Sprint Qualifying on Day 7 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Velodrome on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 14: Usain Bolt of Jamaica competes in the Men's 100 meter semifinal on Day 9 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 14, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12: An RS-X athlete is seen on the way back to the marina after the conclusion of racing on Day 7 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Marina da Gloria on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 17: Silver medalist Nia Ali (L) and gold medalist Brianna Rollins of the United States celebrate after the Women's 100m Hurdles Final on Day 12 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 20: Russia compete during the ribbon rotation 1 in the group all-round qualification round at the at Rio Olympic Arena on August 20, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 19: The riders compete during the Men's semi final 2 on day 14 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic BMX Centre on August 19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 19: Yauheni Karaliou of Belarus competes during the Diving Men's 10m Platform Preliminary on Day 14 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre on August 19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 20: Neymar of Brazil celebrates scoring the winning penalty in the penalty shoot out during the Men's Football Final between Brazil and Germany at the Maracana Stadium on Day 15 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on August 20, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 11: (EDITORS NOTE: Multiple exposures were combined in camera to produce this image.) Simone Biles of the United States competes on the balance beam during the Women's Individual All Around Final on Day 6 of the 2016 Rio Olympics at Rio Olympic Arena on August 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 17: (L-R) Bronze medalist Kristi Castlin, gold medalist Brianna Rollins and silver medalist Nia Ali of the United States celebrate with American flags after the Women's 100m Hurdles Final on Day 12 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 10: Kristin Armstrong hugs her son Lucas Armstrong Savola, 5, after she won the gold medal in the women's cycling road individual time trial at Rio 2016 on Wednesday, August 10, 2016. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 13: Team Great Britain competes in the Women's Team Pursuit first round on Day 8 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Velodrome on August 13, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 15: Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas dives over the finish line to win the gold medal in the Women's 400m Final on Day 10 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 15, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
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