RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The U.S. women's basketball team faced their sternest test of the Rio Games and tougher questions after beating Serbia 110-84 on Wednesday to remain on course for a sixth successive gold.
After winning their opening two games by an average of 52 points, the Americans had to settle for a more modest 26-point margin of victory against the 14th ranked Serbs.
But in the wake of a third consecutive blowout, and their 44th successive victory in the Olympics, American players were once again facing uneasy questions about the lack of depth, quality and competitiveness in the women's game and its place on the Olympic program.
"I don't even know how to answer anymore," said Diana Taurasi who scored a game high 25 points. "Would it (be) better if we lost by 50?
"We have 12 women who dedicate their lives to the game of basketball year around. To knock us for doing that?
"That's a bit disrespectful, I would say."
After two close losses to Spain and Canada, the Serbs (0-3) looked determined to at least make the U.S. work for the win.
In the end no amount of grit could save the 2015 EuroBasket champions from succumbing to the same fate as every other team that has gone up against the U.S. at the last six Olympics.
"They didn't win the European championship for no reason," said Angel McCoughtry.
"It might look like a big margin, but it doesn't feel like it. Those games are hard."
Having scored more than 100 points in all three games so far, the U.S. received offensive contributions up and down their lineup with all 12 players scoring, led by Taurasi who made six three-pointers.
In other Group B action, Spain eased past China 89-68.
(Reporting by Steve Keating; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)