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A’ja Wilson leads USA Basketball over Nigeria in Olympic opener

Team USA's A'ja Wilson (Bryan Snyder - Pool/Getty Images)

The United States women’s national basketball team won its 50th consecutive game at the Olympics with a 81-72 victory over Nigeria in the opener Tuesday.

The U.S. went down early against Nigeria, committing eight turnovers in the first quarter, but a 23-0 run in the second quarter gave the Americans a 44-32 advantage at halftime. The U.S. then staved off a comeback by Nigeria with 3:20 to play to hold on to the win.

It was the first time that a team has come within single digits of the U.S. team since they beat Russia by four points in the semifinals of the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

While it wasn’t dominant and, at times, it wasn’t pretty, it was a win nonetheless.

For Nigeria, it was an improvement from the 31-point loss the U.S. dealt them roughly a week ago in an exhibition game. Down but never out, Nigeria went on a 12-0 run, but Team USA held strong with A’ja Wilson leading the way.

Wilson, making her Olympic debut, finished with a game-high 19 points and 13 rebounds to earn Player of the Game honors. Brittney Griner also recorded a double-double for Team USA, with 13 points and 10 boards.

Diana Taurasi — playing in her 33rd career Olympic basketball game, the most ever by an American — saw her first game action since July 3 after being sidelined with a fractured sternum and then a hip muscle strain. She scored 10 points for Team USA, while fellow five-time Olympian and USA flag bearer Sue Bird tallied 13 assists.

Team USA is back in action against Japan on Friday at 12:40 a.m. ET on USA Network.