U.S. Women Collect Silver At Pan American Games After Falling To Host Canada 81-73
The 2015 U.S. Pan American Women’s Basketball Team (4-1) finished with a silver medal after coming up short and losing 81-73 to host Canada (5-0) in the gold medal game of the 2015 Pan American Games on Monday night at Ryerson Athletic Center in Toronto, Canada.
The USA led by as many as 11 points early in the second quarter but saw its lead erased by halftime when the score was 36-all, before a 26-15 third-quarter advantage gave Canada the lead for good.
Four U.S. players scored in double-digits, but 17 points and 11 rebounds from Breanna Stewart (Connecticut/North Syracuse, N.Y.) and a U.S. Women’s Pan American record 10-of-10 night at the free throw line from Linnae Harper (Kentucky/Chicago, Ill.), were not enough to help the USA overcome 33 points from rising University of Connecticut sophomore Kia Nurse, who also was 11-of-12 from the free throw line.
Earlier today, Cuba (3-2) edged Brazil (2-3) 66-62 for the bronze medal.
“I thought our women came out ready to play tonight,” said USA head coach Lisa Bluder (Iowa). “I thought they did a great job, especially that first quarter was just terrific. Then we got in foul trouble. Alaina (Coates) and Taya (Reimer) both picked up fouls, and we had to put them on bench in the first half. Then when we started fouling, they were 13-for-13 from the free throw line in the first half. They went to their zone defense, and we struggled against their zone. Their zone hurt us. But, we went through a lot of adversity with this game – injuries, foul problems. We just did not have enough bodies to compete against them.
“I thought our team was extremely focused today, and I thought they gave us their best effort, and that’s all we can ask out of them,” Bluder continued. “I’m extremely proud to have coached this group of women.”Harper finished with 16 points, Moriah Jefferson (Connecticut/Glenn Heights, Texas) added 14 points and Taya Reimer (Notre Dame/Fishers, Ind.) was a perfect 6-of-6 from the charity strip on her way to 10 points.
“Obviously, Kia Nurse played really well,” Stewart said. “She just came out and was doing everything, whether it was 3s, driving to the basket and getting and-ones, that kind of stuff. We had them for a second, and then they let the crowd and momentum get behind them and never really looked back.”
The USA trailed 9-8 midway through the first quarter before six U.S. scorers helped the red, white and blue close the first period with a 13-4 run that put the USA ahead 23-13 after the first 10 minutes.
After a score from Canada to start the second period, Jefferson gave the USA its largest lead of the night, 11 points, with a 3-pointer at 8:18 that brought the score to 26-15 in the USA’s favor. Canada answered right back with its own 3, however, and that was the start of a 10-0 stretch that all but erased the USA’s advantage. Reimer scored twice in a row to make it 30-27 at 4:15, but the lead twice changed hands before two made free throws from Reimer with just 11.1 seconds remaining in the first half tied the game at 36-36.
Nurse scored 12 of her 33 points in the second quarter to help change the game’s momentum.
Canada came out of the halftime locker room firing and outscored the USA 14-5 to lead 50-41 before a TV timeout at 4:25. Canada scored first out of the break and built its largest lead of the game, 18 points, when a score from the Canadians made it 62-44 at 1:21. However, the USA scored the last seven points of the third period to trail 62-51 headed into the final 10 minutes.
Points from Reimer, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (Maryland/Aliquippa, Pa.) and Jefferson helped the USA start the fourth quarter with six-straight points to cut Canada’s lead to five, 62-57 at 6:42, but Nurse converted a three-point play to give Canada some breathing room. The USA continued to fight throughout, and came within six points, 67-61 at 5:13, but again a three-point play from Nurse helped counter the USA’s come-back attempt.
Canada scored again to go back up by 11 points before Stewart finished a three-point play at 3:26 to make it 72-64, and after trading scores, a put-back basket from Alaina Coates (South Carolina/Irmo, S.C.) put the USA within seven, 74-67 with 2:04 remaining in the game. Notre Dame’s Natalie Ochanwa scored from the field and made a free throw, however, to counter for Canada, which led 77-67 at 1:05. Stewart scored four-straight points and Harper added two more to bring the USA back within five points, 78-73 at 17.7 seconds, but Canada sank three free throws in the remaining seconds to finish with the 81-73 win.
“I felt like even when were down by 15 that we would come back, cut into it and end up taking the lead, but things happened,” said Coates, who played just 18 minutes due to foul trouble. “The ball got turned over, a missed free throw, missed opportunities, stuff happens. It’s part of the game.”
The USA was plagued by 18 turnovers, compared to Canada’s 12, and was outrebounded 39-35.
Additionally, the USA shot a frigid 38.9 percent from the field overall, and Canada only managed slightly better, hitting 40.0 percent of its shots.
“Our main goal was to get gold from the start, but second place is not bad at all,” Harper said. “It was a great opportunity, and a lot of other countries would kill to be in our position. I’m going to accept the silver medal with pride and celebrate with my teammates.”
U.S. guard Tiffany Mitchell (South Carolina/Charlotte, N.C.) was unable to play throughout the tournament due to a sprained left ankle that occurred during a scrimmage against Canada on July 14.
The USA’s assistant coaches were Michelle Clark-Heard of Western Kentucky University and Scott Rueck of Oregon State University.
Since the first Pan American Games for women in 1955, the USA now has compiled an overall record of 78-15 and has won seven gold medals, five silver medals and two bronze medals.Canada’s finish was its first women’s basketball gold medal in Pan American Games history.