USA World University Games Team Earns 71-58 Scrimmage Victory Over Russia
Three-time defending gold medalist at the World University Games, USA Basketball’s 2015 USA squad has been training since June 20, but on July 2 the team received its first true international test in a friendly scrimmage against Russia in Guangju, South Korea.
After taking a 10-point, 23-13, lead at the end of the first quarter, the USA Basketball Women’s World University Games Team continued to lead by 10 at the half, 42-32, before going up 55-40 at the end of three quarters. After the final stanza, the USA owned a 71-58 victory.
“I thought our energy was good and our effort was good,” said USA and Northwestern University head coach Joe McKeown. "Those two things were what impressed me the most. We played hard, defensively we played hard and rebounded pretty well.”
“It was really fun,” said Mercedes Russell (Tennessee/Springfield, Ore.), who is playing on her third USA Basketball team. “I felt like it was great competition. It was a little funny, because for a lot of the girls, it was their first time playing internationally. They were surprised at how physical it was and how the refs just let us play.”
In its final prep for the 2015 WUGs, the USA World University Games Team, which features just four out of the 12 members with international experience, will scrimmage Canada on July 3 before opening preliminary round play against Italy on July 5 (live on ESPNU on July 4 at 9 a.m. EDT).
“Today was great for us,” added McKeown. “The style of play, the way Russia is able to push the ball, spread you out and shoot it, we’re going to see that a lot. So, I thought that was good for us to play against a team like that. They were physical and I thought it was a really positive day for us. Canada will be another good game for us tomorrow. We still have some things to work on, but these scrimmages will really help us get ready for the tournament.”
Russell, who saw the importance of pre-tournament games firsthand as a member of the 2012 USA U17 World Championship Team, agreed with McKeown.
“It definitely helps a lot,” she said. “Having the opportunity to play other teams early really helps to get used to that international style and how other international teams play before the tournament starts and we have to play a game that really counts.”
Also beneficial to the team is the time spent together between departing Colorado Springs, Colorado, early in the morning of June 26 and today. Not only did they spend approximately 30 hours traveling from Colorado to Seoul, South Korea, the team toured and practiced at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, met with some high-ranking military officials, took a tour of the Korean Demiliarized Zone (DMZ) and of course also checked out the local shopping scene.
The intangibles of team bonding experiences could mean the difference between a gold medal or no medal, a fact not lost on McKeown or Russell.
“We’ve been spending a lot of time together,” said Russell. “We’ve just been hanging out and going to the little convenience stores and tourist shops together. I think it’s helped us get closer and really get to know one another better. When you know each other better, it helps you on the court.
“You could see the chemistry today,” stated McKeown. “All the time we spent traveling, being on the military base, the eye-opening experience of going to the DMZ, meeting (Rear) Admiral Franchetti, General Scaparrotti, these are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for most of our players. It helps them bond.”
USA vs. Italy • July 5 (live on ESPNU on July 4 @ 9 a.m. EDT)
USA vs. China • July 6 (live on ESPNU: July 6 @ 4:30 am EDT)
USA vs. China • July 7 (July 6 @ 11 a.m EDT)
Quarterfinals • July 9 (TBD)
Semifinals • July 10 (TBD)
Finals • July 12 & 13 (TBD)