Aug. 14, 2011
Courtesy USA Basketball
SHENZHEN, China--Racing out to a 25-6 first-quarter lead, the 2011 USA Basketball Women's World University Games Team (1-0) never looked back as it posted an impressive 112-53 opening victory over Brazil (0-1) on Sunday morning in Shenzhen, China.
University of Tennessee's duo of Glory Johnson (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Shekinna Stricklen (Morrilton, Ark.) came off the bench and added 12 points apiece to the winning effort. Johnson also tied for high rebounding honors with nine caroms.
In her first game in a USA Basketball jersey, Elena Delle Donne (Delaware/Wilmington, Del.) scored a game-high 17 points to lead five U.S. players (including Johnson and Stricklen) in double digits as Nnemkadi Ogwumike (Stanford/Cypress, Texas) and Odyssey Sims (Baylor/Irving, Texas) pitched in 14 points each.
Next up for the USA is a game against Slovakia (0-1) on Aug. 15 (10:00 p.m. EDT, Aug. 14) and the team closes preliminary play against Great Britain (1-0) on Aug. 16 (6:00 a.m. EDT). Medal quarterfinals are slated for Aug. 18, semifinals will be played Aug. 19 and the finals will be held on Aug. 21.
"We have 12 great players," said Bill Fennelly, USA World University Games Team and Iowa State University head coach. "You feel like you can wear people down at times, and the balance is how those players that come in and out of the game get into a rhythm, so you have to be careful. We wanted to keep attacking, and all of these players deserve a chance to play. In a game like this, where the pace is up and down, you want to keep everyone fresh. I think the strength of our teams historically is one through 12, the USA is usually deeper than most teams, and certainly that was the case today.
"Our starters got off to a little bit of a slow start, and the score was 6-6. Next thing you know it's 25-6. Everyone had a chance to contribute, and the thing we have told our team is, `find a way to impact success.' It might be coming off the bench, but they are all going to get to play and they all need to find a way to help."
In addition to the double-digit scorers, Skylar Diggins (Notre Dame/South Bend, Ind.), Keisha Hampton (DePaul/Philadelphia, Pa.) and Devereaux Peters (Notre Dame/Chicago, Ill.) chipped in nine apiece, and Lynetta Kizer (Maryland/Woodbridge, Va.) scored eight points.
The USA struck first and never trailed. With the score knotted at 6-6 early in the first quarter, the North American women's defense held Brazil scoreless for a 9:26 span, while its offense put on a show with 21 unanswered points. The run, which ended with a Natalie Novosel (Notre Dame/Lexington, Ky.) jumper at 9:21 to play in the half, put the game virtually out of reach, 27-6.
"It felt great to get out on the court," said Stricklen. "I'm not going to lie I was a little bit nervous, but I think everyone was. Once we got on the court, we were just so excited seeing the crowd. It was fun. I feel like we were a little too excited starting off. Then, we finally settled down and started running our offense and picked up our defense."
Brazil, coached by former WNBA Houston Comet Janeth Arcain, went on a mini-run, 6-2, leaving the score 29-12 at 7:03. If Brazil harbored any comeback hopes, they were soon extinguished. Behind three straight 3-pointers from Stricklen, who hit her fourth after Della Donne netted two, the USA reeled off 17 straight points to take a commanding 46-13 lead with 3:49 to go before halftime.
"(Shekinna) Stricklen came off the bench and really lit up the 3-point line," said Fennelly. "Shooting is contagious. Everyone was missing, so we were a little hesitant. All of the sudden Strick knocked one in, and I think we made 5-of-6 after that. We shot our way out of their zone."
By the midway break the USA's lead was 57-17 and the only remaining question was what the final score would be.
The U.S. outscored Brazil 28-23 in the third quarter and 27-13 in the fourth for the final.
"When you are up like we were, sometimes your focus does go a little bit," said Delle Donne. "Defensively we let them score too much in the third quarter. They scored 23 points, which was more than they scored in the entire first half. So, we really need to focus in on that, grab rebounds and finish plays."
Brazil's Nadia Colhado was her team's leading scorer with 16 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
Outrebounding Brazil 65-47, the USA scored 18 points off of 28 Brazil turnovers, 10 points on the fast break and 54 in the paint; whereas Brazil only had one point off of 14 U.S. miscues, one from the fast break and 30 in the paint. With its offense shooting 47.7 percent (42-88 FGs) from the field, including 33.3 percent (9-27 3pt FGs) from beyond the arc, the USA's defense held Brazil to a frigid 24.1 percent (20-83 FGs) from the field and just 18.8 percent (3-16 3pt FGs) from 3-point.
"It's so much fun," said Nneka Ogwumike. "It's not often at all that you get to play with the people that you are usually playing against. I've never had this much talent on a team before, and you really have to embrace the experience because you never know if you will be able to get to do this again. I'm just really happy with the team. We are focused on collaborating and being a unit, and I'm excited for five more games."
Assisting Fennelly on the USA sideline are Suzie McConnell-Serio of Duquesne University and Terri Williams-Flournoy of Georgetown University.
The World University Games are a multi-sport competition organized every other year by the International University Sports Federation (FISU). The USA women's basketball team is comprised of U.S. citizens who are currently enrolled in college and have remaining eligibility.
USA Basketball women's teams have participated in 15 prior World University Games and collected a record seven gold medals, six silvers and one bronze medal. Since 1973, the first year the USA women competed in the WUGs, the United States has compiled an 89-15 overall record entering the 2011 event. In 2009, led by 2010 FIBA World Champion Tina Charles, the USA posted a 7-0 slate en route to the gold medal.
Additional Quotes from Shekinna Stricklen
On today's game:
It felt great to get out on the court. I'm not going to lie I was a little bit nervous, but I think everyone was. Once we got on the court, we were just so excited seeing the crowd. It was fun. I feel like we were a little too excited starting off. Then, we finally settled down and started running our offense and picked up our defense.
On making four 3-pointers in the second quarter:
My shots were just falling, and my teammates were looking to find me. I was able to set up and knock down the shots. It felt really good.
On the third quarter:
We lost our focus in the third quarter when we were up by 40 points. We picked it up again in the fourth quarter, but as a team we are going to have to stay together and stay focused and play each quarter like it's 0-0.