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U.S. Women Fend Off Brazil To Open Pan American Games With A 75-69 Victory

  • Date:
    Jul 16, 2015

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After leading by 16 points in the second quarter and then trailing by two points in the third, the 2015 U.S. Pan American Women’s Basketball Team (1-0) rallied to secure a 75-69 win over Brazil (0-1) in its opening game of the 2015 Pan American Games on July 16 at Ryerson Athletic Center in Toronto, Canada.

Brazil compiled the two-point lead, 48-46, after a 14-0 run in the third period, but two made free throws by Moriah Jefferson (Connecticut/Glenn Heights, Texas) and a three-point play from Breanna Stewart (Connecticut/North Syracuse, N.Y.) helped the USA to close the quarter by outscoring Brazil 11-2 to regain control of the game.

“You never want to lose a lead like we did, but we went through some adversity, and we didn’t panic,” said USA head coach Lisa Bluder (Iowa). “Everybody stayed calm. We knew we could battle back, and I thought that was really good for our team.”

Stewart led the USA with 26 points, 12 rebounds, and she shot 6-of-7 from the free throw line after drawing eight fouls from Brazil. Jefferson finished with 21 points and three assists, and she was 4-of-4 from the line. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (Maryland/Aliquippa, Pa.) rounded out the USA’s double-digit scorers with 10 points on 2-of-3 shooting from 3-point.

“Whether it was Shatori knocking down some 3s, or Moriah making shots, there are a lot of people who will step up,” Stewart said. “This is a really deep team.”

The USA, which had previously topped Brazil 84-65 in a scrimmage on July 12, also got nine rebounds from Alaina Coates (South Carolina/Irmo, S.C.).

“I just feel like at one point they had more energy than us,” Coates said. “They went on a run, they started hitting outside shots. I feel like there was a moment when we hit a lull, but after that, we were like, ‘This is it. We can’t let them do this anymore.’ We rallied together and got our energy and our spirits back up, and we went out there and were able to finish the game the way that we did.”

Brazil put the game’s first points on the board, and the teams traded scores until 5:33, when the University of Connecticut duo of Stewart and Jefferson combined for eight-straight points to give the USA a 20-11 lead at 4:30. Brazil ended the streak with a score at 4:13, and again, the teams traded baskets to end the first 10 minutes with the USA ahead 25-17. Stewart scored 12 of her game-high 26 points in the first quarter, including two 3-pointers.

Walker-Kimbrough started the second period with her second 3 of the game, which was followed by a 3-pointer and another basket from Jefferson to give the USA a 33-17 advantage and its largest lead of the game, 16 points, at 8:31. The USA was held scoreless, however, over the next 4:59 while Brazil put up nine points to cut the deficit to 33-26 at 4:30. Stewart scored at 3:32, followed by four points from Linnae Harper (Kentucky/Chicago, Ill.), and the USA led 39-31 at the midway point.

After Jefferson connected from deep at 7:25 to make it 46-34, Brazil made its run. Patricia Teixeira, who finished with 18 points in the game, scored seven straight points during a 14-0 run that pushed Brazil ahead 48-46 with 3:26 left in the third quarter. Jefferson’s two free throws ended Brazil’s scoring run, and she and Stewart scored the USA’s last 11 points of the quarter to help the USA get back on top 57-50 headed into the fourth.

“Moriah came into the huddle and was like, ‘That is it. That was their run. Now we respond,’” Walker-Kimbrough said. “We had to get stops and score, and we were able to put it together.”

Three different scorers pushed the USA’s lead to 62-50 just three minutes into the final period, but Brazil was not finished. Brazil outscored the USA 17-9 over the next 4:29 to come within four points of the USA, 71-67 at 1:55.

Brazil would score just once more in the game however, as Taya Reimer (Notre Dame/Fishers, Ind.) barely beat out the shot-clock buzzer for two points at 59.1, and Jefferson made two free throws in the bonus situation after being fouled on the perimeter, and as time expired in  the game, Jefferson dribbled out the USA’s final possession for the win.

“I knew after the scrimmage they were going to be really physical,” Jefferson said. “I think we withstood their runs well. We knocked in shots when we needed them, and we got the win.”

While Brazil (28-65 FGs, .431) shot slightly better than the USA (27-65 FGs, .415) from the field, the USA was better from deep, shooting 44.4 percent (8-18 3pt FGs) from behind the arc to Brazil’s 37.5 percent (6-16 3pt FGs).

The USA also had a narrow, 39-36 advantage on the glass and shot 13-of-17 (.765) from the free throw line, compared to Brazil’s 7-of-9 (.778) performance from the charity stripe.

U.S. guard Tiffany Mitchell (South Carolina/Charlotte, N.C.) did not play due to a sprained left ankle that occurred during a scrimmage against Canada on July 14.

Also today, in the USA’s preliminary round Group A, Puerto Rico (1-0) won against Dominican Republic (0-1) 76-54; while in Group B, Cuba (1-0) beat Argentina (0-1) 68-55, and host Canada (1-0) cruised past Venezuela (0-1) 101-38.

The USA will take on Dominican Republic at 9 p.m. EDT on July 17 (ESPN3) and Puerto Rico at 9 p.m. EDT on July 18 (ESPN3).

The top two teams from each preliminary-round group will advance to the medal-round semifinals on July 19, while the third and fourth-placed teams will play for fifth-eighth places. The semifinal winners will compete for the gold medal on July 20, and the semifinal losers will play for bronze.

The USA’s assistant coaches are 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 75-14  and won seven gold medals, four silver medals and two bronze medals.

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