Aug. 16, 2011
Courtesy of USA Basketball
Photos by Stephen Weidley
Shenzhen, China--The 2011 USA Basketball Women's World University Games Team (3-0) separated early from Great Britain (1-2) and went on to collect an 85-33 victory on Tuesday evening in Shenzhen, China.
The win moves the USA into the medal quarterfinals beginning on Thurs., Aug. 18.
Assisting in the all-around USA team effort were University of Tennessee Lady Vols Shekinna Stricklen (Morrilton, Ark.) with nine points, and Glory Johnson (Knoxville, Tenn.) who grabbed a team-best eight rebounds to go with her five points and five assists.
"Great Britain was a strong, really powerful team," said Johnson. "They were quick. A lot of them wanted to drive and sometimes we had a problem guarding their guard penetration. They did that, but luckily our press killed them."
Skylar Diggins (Notre Dame/South Bend, Ind.) posted game-highs of 13 points, four assists and six steals as the well-rounded scoring of the U.S. team saw all 12 members of the U.S. put up points before halftime. Diggins received ample scoring help from Elena Delle Donne (Delaware/Wilmington, Del.) and Chiney Ogwumike (Stanford/Cypress, Texas) with 10 points apiece.
"I thought defensively that was probably the best we've played," said Bill Fennelly, USA World University Games Team and Iowa State University head coach. "We started a little bit slow and I don't know if it's because it was our first night game after our two morning games. But, Great Britain had a couple players who were not playing. That's another thing, we anticipated a different line-up and when you don't see it, sometimes you relax. Overall, we had three pool games where we played really well. Tonight was a good way to finish it."
The USA will face Finland (2-1) on Aug. 18 (8:30 a.m. EDT) in the medal quarterfinal round. Should the U.S. win, it will play the winner of the Australia (3-0) versus Canada (1-1) quarterfinals game in the Aug. 19 semifinals. The other side of the medal quarterfinal bracket features Taiwan (3-0) against Brazil (2-1), while Russia (2-0) will face Sweden (2-1). The finals will be held on Aug. 21.
"(Playing in the medal round is) like going into the NCAA Tournament," stated Diggins. "Everyone's level of play has to step up. We definitely have to take advantage of the day off tomorrow and rest our bodies because we know every team is going to be coming after us. They'll be banding together to beat us. This team has to have the mind-set that we have the biggest target on our back and we have to perform up to Coach Fennelly's standards, which is perfection at times. We can do perfection in stretches. We just have to make sure that we buy in. We have to be focused and ready. Now, it's anybody's game. It's 0-0 and a lot of teams are just as hungry for that gold medal as we are."
Chiney Ogwumike netted all four of her attempts from the stripe to put the USA up 4-0 with the game just 34 seconds old as the Americans never trailed in the contest. With the score listing 15-11, the stars and stripes went on an 8-0 run over the final 1:28 to end the period ahead 23-11.
"We had a little bit of a slow start, so we pulled the starting team out and talked to them a little bit about some defensive things and they went back in," said Fennelly. "Our pressure defense, coach Flo (Terri Williams-Flournoy) put in a 2-2-1 press, and it really changed the game when we went to that."
After scoring the first bucket of the second quarter to close the gap to 10 points, 23-13, Great Britain had no answer for the USA's defensive press. The tenacious defense sparked the American women's speedy transition offense, resulting in a 9-0 run that spanned just 1:20 of play and with 8:00 to go before half, the USA's lead was up to 32-13. The Brits continued to crack under the stress and managed just two more field goals in the remainder of the quarter as the U.S. continued its onslaught, outscoring its opponents 21-4 to take a commanding 53-17 halftime lead.
"Skylar's on-ball pressure is relentless," added Fennelly. "She just totally took them out of their offense and picked them for layups a couple times, too. When you have someone at the point of your defense dictating the pressure and dictating how the game is played, it's hard for the other guy. Certainly that was the case tonight."
During the USA's 30-6 second-quarter barrage, the red, white and blue nabbed seven of its 22 steals for the game and pressured Great Britain into coughing up the ball eight times and shooting just 3-of-16 from the field.
"Our guards, especially Skylar (Diggins) and Odyssey (Sims) were able to pressure their point guards and make it hard for them to get into their offense," said Delle Donne. "When they finally got into their offense, the shot clock was going down. So, our guards did an amazing job putting on that pressure and disrupting them."
Continuing to put on the pressure, the red, white and blue allowed just four field goals in the second half as it outscored Great Britain 14-7 in the third quarter and 18-9 in the final stanza to close out the night with the 85-33 win.
In addition to the double-digit scorers, other contributions came from Stricklen's nine points, and eight apiece from Jacki Gemelos (USC/Stockton, Calif.) and Nnemkadi Ogwumike (Stanford/Cypress, Texas). UT's Johnson snagged a team-high eight rebounds and added five points and five assists.
The U.S., which struggled from the line in its first two contests (.618), knocked down 88.2 percent (15-17 FTs) of its tries from the charity stripe against Great Britain. The red, white and blue dominated on both ends of the court, outrebounding the Europeans 55-38, scoring 22 points off of 32 turnovers and limiting the British to an icy cold 18.2 percent (12-66 FGs) shooting from the field, including an even more frigid 5.6 percent (1-18 FGs) from 3-point land. In contrast, the U.S., which scored 26 fast-break points, hit 46.6 percent (34-73 FGs) of its field goals and gave up just two points from its 22 turnovers.
Great Britain was led by University of Maryland center Yemi Oyefuwa, who had nine points and eight rebounds.
Additional quotes from Glory Johnson (University of Tennessee)
On today's game:
"Great Britain was a strong, really powerful team. They were quick. A lot of them wanted to drive and sometimes we had a problem guarding their guard penetration. They did that, but luckily our press killed them. We brought that energy at the beginning of the game. We let up a little bit in the third quarter, but we picked it up again in the fourth quarter."
Heading into the medal round, what do you need to work on as a team before the next round?
"Communication is key. Sometimes we don't have it in the zone. We've been playing zone a lot in the last couple of games and if we're not talking, then we're getting beat. So, just communication and keeping our hands up on defense."
How important is the USA's depth?
"It's important and it's a really good thing. Because, having five post players and several guards who can play both the post and the guard positions, two really strong point guards and also other guards who can play point guard. It's crucial because a lot of teams get tired. They can't play as many people as we can and be as powerful defensively."