08/11/2012 04:28 EDT | Updated 10/11/2012 05:12 EDT

Australia wins Olympic bronze medal in women's basketball with 83-74 win over Russia

LONDON - Lauren Jackson wouldn't let Australia leave the Olympics without a medal.

The 6-foot-5 Jackson scored 21 of her 25 points in the second half to help Australia beat Russia 83-74 on Saturday and win the women's basketball bronze medal.

It is the fifth straight Olympics that Australia has won a medal. The Australians had won the past three silver medals since winning the bronze in 1996.

Russia cut a 38-30 halftime lead to three early in the third quarter before Australia scored 10 straight to take command. Suzy Batkovic had a three-point play on a tip-in of a missed shot and Jackson had a putback that made it 48-35 with 5:21 left in the quarter.

Australia extended the lead to 15 points on Jackson's basket with 7:21 left in the game before Russia rallied behind Becky Hammon. The Russians cut their deficit to 76-71 with 1:21 left but that's as close as they could get.

Hammon scored 17 of her 19 points in the second half to lead Russia, which finished without a medal for the first time in three Olympics.

The Australians had the two most memorable moments in women's basketball at the Olympics. Belinda Snell hit a 50-foot heave to send a game into overtime and Liz Cambage had a dunk against Russia, which might have been the first in Olympic history.

Now they have a bronze medal.

They would have liked gold, or even silver, but the team were felt very good about the bronze.

Australian point guard Kristi Harrower finished with 21 points and four assists. The 37-year was playing in her final Olympics. As she dribbled out the final seconds on the clock, her teammates gathered around her, hugging and congratulating her. A few minutes later, they lifted Harrower up on their shoulders so she could be saluted by the fans.

Australia came into the London Games off a disappointing fifth place finish at the 2010 world championship. The Australians are missing star guard Penny Taylor, who tore her anterior cruciate ligament in the EuroLeague finals in April. They lost a pool game to France — the first time they were beaten by a team other than the U.S. in the Olympics since 1996.

Winning a medal at this Olympics was something Jackson really wanted. The Australians challenged the U.S. in the semifinals, giving the Americans their first halftime deficit in Olympic play in 12 years. They just ran out of gas in the second half and fell by 13, leaving them playing for the bronze.

Trailing 20-19 early in the second quarter, Australia took control behind Harrower and Batkovic. The two sparked a 19-8 run to take control. Batkovic got the burst started with a jumper and had eight points during the spurt.

Hammon scored her first basket of the game just before the halftime buzzer to get Russia within eight at the half.

Hammon, 35, is playing in her second Olympics for Russia. She became a Russian naturalized citizen before the Beijing Games. Because she hadn't played for the United States in any major FIBA-sanctioned international events, she is allowed to compete for Russia in the Olympics.

The 5-foot-6 South Dakota native helped Russia win the bronze medal at the Beijing Games. This is the third straight Olympics that Russia has reached the semifinals, but the team had to settle for the bronze in Athens — falling to the U.S. in 2004 and 2008.

Even though she didn't win a medal this Olympics, she had a less stressful experience. Her patriotism was questioned in 2008 when she played with Russia, which won the bronze medal.

Russia had won the bronze medal in the past two Olympics and hasn't won a gold medal since 1992 when the country was known as the Unified Team.


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