USA Women's World University Games Team Remains Unbeaten, Routs Czech Republic 92-54
The USA Women’s World University Games Team (3-0) never trailed and remained unbeaten in the 2015 World University Games women’s basketball competition with a convincing 92-54 win over previously undefeated Czech Republic (2-1) at the Muan Indoor Gymnasium in Gwangju, South Korea on July 7.
The USA will advance to the medal round quarterfinals on July 9, where it will play the No. 2 seed from Group A, Hungary (2-1), at 7:30 a.m. EDT, live on ESPNU.
“I thought we really were balanced,” said USA head coach Joe McKeown (Northwestern). “We came out in the second quarter and I thought, defensively, took over the game. We rebounded really well and forced them into some tough shots. They had played well the last two games, and our defensive was the big key today.”
After comparably slow starts in its first two wins over Italy and China, the United States came out on fire in the group-stage finale. The USA used a swarming full-court press to stifle the Czechs and converted 14-of-15 field goals in the first quarter, shooting 93 percent en route to establishing a 30-15 lead after 10 minutes. With the score even at two-all early, Courtney Williams (South Florida/Folkston, Ga.) led her team through a 13-0 run in which she scored the final six points. The guard finished with eight points in the first quarter, matching Mercedes Russell (Tennessee/Springfield, Ore.), who netted four of her eight points from offensive rebounds.
“We were more focused coming out,” said USA team captain Chanise Jenkins (DePaul/Chicago, Ill.). “People were making the extra pass, hitting the open woman, and I think that’s what played a big part in our success today.”
The Czech Republic, which trailed by as many as 20 points, in the first period, cut the deficit to 10 at 34-24 midway through the second quarter, but the United States cranked up the heat one again. The red, white and blue scored 12 of the next 16 points in the game, capped when Aerial Powers (Michigan State/Detroit, Mich.) stole the ball off the inbound and coasted to an easy layup with 2:15 left. That put the USA ahead, 46-28, and three free throws from Erica McCall (Stanford/Bakersfield, Calif.) made it 49-32 at the midway point.
Russell and Powers continued to score seemingly at will during the third quarter. Powers opened the stanza with a 3-pointer, one of two she would nail during the third. Russell added six more of her game-high 18 points, including two with 3:00 to go that pushed the advantage north of 30 for the first time in the contest. Sydney Wiese (Oregon State/Phoenix, Ariz.) and Katie Hempen (Arizona State/Highland, Ill.) connected from deep down the stretch, with Hempen’s first basket of the day coming just before time expired in the third quarter. The United States led 79-46 through 30 minutes.
McKeown was able to rotate in some fresh legs in the fourth quarter, and the group held the Czech Republic to eight points in 10 minutes before finishing off a 92-54 triumph. Brionna Jones (Maryland/Havre de Grace, Md.) nearly outscored the opposition by herself, tallying seven of her 13 in the fourth quarter.
“We had a lot of energy,” said McKeown. “I thought last night [against China] we were running in mud at times. Today, we put people away. We put our foot on the pedal and exploded today, and that’s great.”
As a team, the United States shot 55 percent (40-for-73) against the Czech Republic, while its defense held the other side to only 28 percent (19-for-68). Both marks are the best they have been in the three games thus far. The USA is shooting 51.2 percent, while opponents are at 33.2 percent in the tournament. The USA continued to over power teams inside as well, adding 58 more points in the paint to bring its tournament total to 172 (57.3 ppg).
The rebounding margin continues to climb as well, and it now sits at +23 through three games. Russell is averaging a team-high 10.3 rebounds per game, while McCall is close behind with 9.7 rpg.
“Getting stops on defense is a big aspect of what will help us moving forward,” said Jones. “If we put more stops together, we’re able to prevent teams from scoring. Everybody on this team is an amazing player, so we know we can score. The focus is mainly on getting stops.”
Russell finished with her second consecutive double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Jones secured her first double-double with 13 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. The pair combined for 11 offensive boards alone Monday.
The semifinals are on July 11, the bronze medal game is on July 12 and the gold medal game is set for July 13.
“It feels awesome [to be 3-0],” said Wiese. “All of the work we’ve been putting in the past couple of weeks is coming to fruition here. Seeing everyone have a blast out there is a lot of fun. Hopefully we can get three more.”
McKeown is assisted by collegiate head coaches Holly Warlick from the University of Tennessee and Tanya Warren from the University of Northern Iowa.
Held every other year, the World University Games is organized by the International University Sports Federation (FISU). The WUGs are a multi-sport competition open to men and women who are between the ages of 17 and 24 (born between 1/1/88 and 12/31/98), who are enrolled as a full-time college student with remaining eligibility for the 2015-16 school year.
USA Basketball women’s teams have participated in 17 World University Games and collected a record nine golds, six silvers and one bronze medal. Since 1973, the first year the USA women competed in the World University Games, USA women’s teams have compiled a 104-15 as of Tuesday. The USA has won gold medals in the past five WUGs in which it has competed (2001, 2005, 2009, 2011, 2013).