U.S. Pan Ams Women’s Basketball Team Perseveres for 70-62 Opening Victory Over Argentina
Fighting back from an eight-point deficit midway through the third quarter, the 2019 U.S. Pan American Games Women’s Basketball Team (1-0) battled back to claim a 70-62 victory over Argentina on Tuesday night in Lima, Peru.
Chennedy Carter (Texas A&M/Mansfield, Texas) led the U.S. with a team-best 14 points, Tyasha Harris (South Carolina/Noblesville, Ind.) contributed 13 points and Mikayla Pivec (Oregon State/Lynnwood, Wash.) chipped in 11 points.
Michaela Onyenwere (UCLA/Aurora, Colo.), who scored nine points, grabbed 12 rebounds in leading the USA to a 47-34 rebounding advantage that was crucial to the USA’s victory.
Argentina is a veteran team,” said USA head coach Suzy Merchant (Michigan State). “They have been together a long time, and they really play well together and move the ball. They are very skilled, and very crafty. So, I knew we would be tested.
“I thought we did some really good things in the first half, and then went away from them. And to our kids’ credit we really got better in the second half at ball-screen defense. We had some really good energy off of the bench, and we attacked the basket. You can look at the free throw line, and that was the difference in the game.”
Argentina was whistled for 22 fouls, and the USA was 20-of-24 from the free throw line (.833), while the USA committed 16 personal fouls and Argentina shot just 8-of-10 from the charity stripe.
“They had a lot of great guards,” Carter said. “I feel like we played hard and we played together. We came out with the win, and it took all of us.
“Really, just getting defensive stops,” Carter added of the USA’s comeback in the second half. “We had to guard the ball a little bit better. In the first half we were leaving them open for uncontested shots. In the second half, coach (Vic) Schaefer said we just had to play harder and play tougher. The second group came in and gave us good spurts, and then our starters came back and took it away. It was a great team effort.”
A total of six U.S. scorers helped the USA to compile a 23-16 lead after the first 10 minutes, including eight points from Carter to help the USA get off to a strong start.
Argentina, however, chipped away at the lead, and knotted the score at 32-all with 3:04 to go before halftime. The USA scored just 10 points in the period, and Argentina held a 34-33 edge at the midway break.
Opening the second half on an 11-4 run, Argentina pulled ahead 45-37 with five minutes remaining in the third quarter. Then, it was the USA’s turn.
With 1:45 remaining in the stanza, Kathleen Doyle (Iowa/Lagrange Park, Ill.) got a steal and dished the ball to Bella Alarie (Princeton/Bethesda, Md.), who tied the game at 47-47. From there, Onyenwere converted a defensive rebound into two points, and Alarie followed with a steal and layin at the buzzer and the third quarter closed with the USA on a 14-2 run and ahead 51-47.
Doyle nailed a 3-pointer early in the fourth period, and the teams traded baskets for the next few minutes. With the score showing 56-52 in favor of the North Americans, the USA slowly increased its lead to 66-58 on a steal and assist from Carter to Harris. Carter scored the game’s next bucket to give the USA a 68-58 advantage and Argentina called time out with 1:13 left in the game.
Argentina scored the next four points, but a pair of free throws from Pivec with five seconds remaining sealed the 70-62 victory.
“We have been preparing so much for this moment, and I think it was really cool to see it all come together,” said Alarie. “Obviously, there were a lot of ups and downs, but our momentum at the end – it was just a lot of great energy. Everyone was contributing and doing their part. I’m really proud of this group tonight.”
The USA will continue against the U.S. Virgin Islands (0-1) at 8 p.m. EDT on Aug. 7 and then will wrap up preliminary round play against Colombia (1-0) at 2:30 p.m. EDT on Aug. 8. The USA’s games are available live on Watch ESPN.
Also today in the USA’s Group B, Colombia edged out U.S. Virgin Islands 69-66. In Group A, Puerto Rico (1-0) beat Paraguay (0-1) 91-73, and Brazil (1-0) topped Canada (0-1) 79-71.
Following the preliminary round, the top two teams from each pool will meet in the semifinals on Aug. 9, while the two No. 5 teams will play for fifth place, and the No. 6 teams will play seventh places.
The bronze (7 p.m.) and gold medal games (10 p.m.) will be played on Aug. 10.
The USA assistant coaches are Felisha Legette-Jack (Buffalo) and Vic Schaefer (Mississippi State).