July 20, 2015
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By JIL PRICE
Pan American Run Ends for Bluder, Team USA
Red, White & Blue take home silver medal following loss to Canada
TORONTO — Head coach Lisa Bluder‘s run with the U.S. Pan American Women’s Basketball Team came to an end Monday night, as the Stars and Stripes fell to Pan American Games host Canada, 81-73, in the gold medal contest.
It was the first-ever Pan American Games gold medal win for Canada (5-0) in women’s basketball, while Team USA (4-1) earned its fifth silver medal. This is the second medal for Bluder, who won a gold medal with the U.S. at the World University Games in 2001 as an assistant coach.
The Red, White, and Blue started strong, outscoring their opponent 23-13 in the first quarter of play, but Canada returned the favor in the second to tie the contest 36-36 at the half. Canada’s switch from player-to-player to zone defense helped disrupt the U.S.
Canada dominated the third quarter, pouring in 26 points and holding Team USA to 15 for a 62-51 advantage. Despite outscoring Canada in the fourth 22-19, the U.S. could not pull off its second comeback in as many nights.
Kia Nurse of UConn guided her team to the gold, shooting 59 percent from the floor and netting a team-high 33 points. Joining her in double figures for Canada were Natalie Achonwa (13) and Tamara Tatham (10).
Breanna Stewart (UConn) led the way for the U.S., recording her second double-double of the Pan American Games with a team-high 17 points and 11 rebounds (1 offensive, 10 defensive). Linnae Harper (Kentucky) followed with 16 points, 10 of which came from the free throw line, while Moriah Jefferson (UConn) (14) and Taya Reimer (Notre Dame) (10) also reached double figures in scoring.
Since the inception of the Pan American Games in 1955, the Americans have earned seven gold, five silver, and two bronze medals in women’s basketball. Team USA owns a 78-15 record all-time at the games.
Team USA Comes Back on Cuba, Will Play for Gold
Gold medal game begins at 7:45 p.m. (CT) Monday on ESPN3
TORONTO — Faced with an 11-point deficit after the first half, the U.S. Pan American Women’s Basketball Team came charging back to earn a 65-64 semifinal victory over Cuba and secure a spot in the gold medal game.
Team USA will play the winner of the Canada, Brazil semifinal game for the Pan American Games gold medal Monday night. The gold medal contest is scheduled for 7:45 p.m. (CT) on ESPN3.
“It’s kind of surreal for me right now,” U.S. head coach Lisa Bluder said of reaching the gold medal game. “We’ve ensured ourselves a medal, but we came here with a gold medal in mind. We are very set on earning that gold medal.”
It took the U.S. the first half and halftime to work out the kinks. Cuba headed to the break with a commanding 11-point advantage, 37-26, after holding the potent U.S. offense to 18 points in the first quarter and eight points in the second. Cuba’s defense also excelled, forcing 14 turnovers and crashing the boards to out-rebound the U.S.
“I hate to make excuses but we were sluggish to begin this game,” Bluder said. “We were not ourselves. We didn’t shoot well from the three-point line and that is a sign of fatigue. Going to bed late and playing at 12:30 p.m. today wasn’t in our best interest.
“I’m just thankful to get through this game with a victory and get to play for the gold medal tomorrow.”
Cuba found a way to keep the U.S. off-balanced inside early and out throughout the game, holding their opponent to one three-pointer in regulation.
The third quarter was the most successful for the U.S., as they outscored Cuba 20-11. The Red, White, and Blue hit their stride inside, out-rebounding their opponent 12-8 and shooting 42 percent from the floor. Breanna Stewart, who had just two points in the first half, led the charge in the third with seven points, followed by Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (5), Moriah Jefferson (4), and Alaina Coates (4).
“The turning point was when we put on our three-quarter court press,” Bluder said. “When we did that it gave us some steals and quick easy scores. We were having trouble scoring and that gave us an opportunity to get some easier scores off the press.”
In the second half, it was Linnae Harper who came through in the clutch for the Stars and Stripes. Harper scored the game-tying layup, sunk a pair of free throws, the second of which proved to be the game-winner, and registered a steal in the final six seconds to help secure the win for her country. She closed the contest with a team-high 16 points, a 50 percent shooting percentage, and four steals.
“Linnae was unbelievable for us today,” Bluder said about her impact on the game. “A great spark off the bench. She played well defensively, hit the clutch free throws, and had the steal in the last six seconds. I’m extremely happy for her.
“We knew we needed Linnae in the game to match up with Cuba. We challenged her before the game and she responded.”
Coates recorded a double-double for the U.S. with 10 points and 15 rebounds (6 offensive, 9 defensive). Harper (16), Walker-Kimbrough (15), Jefferson (12), and Stewart (10) also joined her in double figures in scoring.
After guiding Team USA to its fourth consecutive win, Bluder looked up into the stands at her family and saw a wonderful surprise. Former University of Iowa women’s athletic director Dr. Christine Grant, who hired Bluder at Iowa, was there showing her support.
“I looked up at my family and Dr. Grant was sitting next to them,” Bluder said. “It was really amazing and pretty cool that the person who gave me the opportunity to be the coach at Iowa was here for me today. It was really neat.”
Stars & Stripes Outlast Puerto Rico, Win Pool A
Team USA advances to face Cuba in semifinals Sunday at 12:30 p.m. (CT)
TORONTO — The U.S. Pan American Women’s Basketball Team held off a scrappy Puerto Rico squad to record its third consecutive victory, 93-77, and win Pool A at the Pan American Games Saturday night.
“It’s good to be pool champs because we get to play the second place team from the other side,” U.S. head coach Lisa Bluder said. “That allows us to avoid a matchup with Canada until the championship game, which is good because Canada has such a good home court crowd here.
“This is exactly where we want to be.”
Team USA continued to capitalize on its size, dominating the inside game, with 40 points in the paint compared to Puerto Rico’s 18. The Red, White and Blue also out-rebounded its opponent 48-26.
Breanna Stewart and Alaina Coates used their size to impact the game, post double-doubles, and lead the U.S. to victory. Stewart paced the squad offensively with 24 points and logged 12 rebounds (4 offensive, 8 defensive), while Coates netted 23 points and pulled down a team-high 13 rebounds (8 offensive, 5 defensive).
“We owned the inside game tonight,” Bluder said. “We had 40 points in the paint to their 18, and we shot the ball really well because we were taking high percentage shots. The rebound margin was unbelievable as well. We had 50 percent of our offensive opportunities on rebounds.
“Alaina was amazing with the offensive rebounds tonight. She had eight offensive rebounds and 13 total boards.”
Puerto Rico held its own until late in the game, staying within one point after the first quarter, five at the half, and outscoring the U.S. 23-21 in the third quarter to get within three points heading into the final 10 minutes of action.
Stellar three-point shooting combined with the play of Carla Cortijo Sanchez, a former Texas Longhorn, provided the fire for Puerto Rico’s offense. She netted 24 points, shot 53 percent from the floor, and dished out a team-high five assists in her 30 minutes played. The guard was forced to exit the game early in the fourth and was unable to return to the game. With its point guard on the bench, Puerto Rico’s comeback effort sputtered.
“She is so fast and excellent off the ball screen,” Bluder said of Cortijo Sanchez. “We needed to give Moriah Jefferson more help off that ball screen, so we went to trapping and high-hedging which helped a little bit.
“Puerto Rico shot the three-ball much better than they had in the whole tournament. They shot 47 percent from three-point range, and in my opinion, that is what kept them in the game.”
Stewart, who recorded three of her four steals after Cortijo Sanchez’ exit, helped provide the momentum necessary for the U.S. to go on a run and secure the 93-77 final victory.
The U.S. (3-0) will face Cuba (2-1) in semifinal action at 12:30 p.m. (CT) Sunday. A win over Cuba would secure a spot in the gold medal game for Team USA.
Team USA Routs Dominican Republic
5 score in double figures to secure team victory, move to 2-0
TORONTO — The U.S. Women’s Pan American Basketball Team outscored the Dominican Republic 32-6 in the opening quarter and never looked back en route to its dominant 94-55 victory on Friday night. With the win, Team USA moves to 2-0 in Pan American Games play.
“It was a nice win after an intense game against Brazil last night,” head coach Lisa Buder said. “To be able to play a game that was less dramatic and didn’t require our starters to play so many minutes was good for us. That gives us an advantage going into tomorrow’s game.”
It was a total team victory for the U.S., who saw five players reach double figures in scoring. Breanna Stewart led the charge with 16 points, followed by Alaina Coates (14), Stephanie Mavunga (13), Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (11), and Caroline Coyer (11). Each available athlete logged at least 12 minutes for the Red, White, and Blue.
“It was really good that our players who haven’t seen significant minutes were able to get in and gain some confidence,” Bluder said. “That will give us confidence down the line now that they’ve been on the floor.
“Shatori Walker-Kimbrough continues to do a really good job for us of the bench. She’s shooting the ball well and playing really smart basketball. Caroline Coyer came off the bench and hit three three-pointers, which was great to see, and she passes the ball so well. It was really nice to see those things from them.”
The squad was efficient offensively throughout the contest, shooting 55 percent from the floor, all while holding the Dominican Republic to 34 percent. Team USA also out-rebounded its opponent 51 to 29.
“We were superior athletes,” Bluder added about her team’s performance inside. “We were taller and our inside game was really dominant. Alaina Coates went 6-for-6 and Stephanie Mavunga came off the bench and went 6-for-7 inside. We had a really good night inside and we should have because of our size.”
Carmen Guzman paced the Dominican Republic with 14 points, followed by Sugeiry Monsac (13), Danilsa Andujar (11), and Genesis Martinez (11). They joined forces to score all but six of their team’s total points.
The U.S. (2-0) plays its final preliminary game on Saturday against Puerto Rico (1-1). With a win in the contest, scheduled for 8 p.m. (CT) on ESPN3, Team USA can win Pool A.
“Puerto Rico is very scrappy,” Bluder said. “They’re quick and more guard oriented, but at the same time every one of those player on their roster has played in the United States. They all played for good schools. They know our players and our style, so that’s something we’ll have to prepare ourselves for.
“They are also a very good pressing team, maybe the best pressing team of the tournament. They have a variety of presses and without much time there is a lot to get ready for.”
Team USA Downs Experienced Brazil Squad
Stewart double-double leads the way for the Red, White & Blue in 1st win
TORONTO — Head coach Lisa Bluder and the U.S. Pan American Women’s Basketball Team got off to a strong start at the Pan American Games, defeating a more physical and experienced Brazil squad, 75-69, Thursday night.
“It’s a great way to start the tournament,” Bluder said after her first win as head coach of the Red, White, and Blue. “We knew Brazil was going to be a very good team. They’re very experienced and strong. To open up with them was a real challenge for our team.”
The average age of U.S. players is 20 years old compared to Brazil, which carries an average age of 25 on its roster. The oldest player on the court, 35-year-old Kelly Santos, caused the most problems for Team USA. She posted a double-double with 11 rebounds and 10 points, while 24-year-old Patricia Teixeira netted a team-high 18 points.
Their efforts could not keep up with USA’s duo from UConn, 20-year-old Breanna Stewart and 21-year-old Moriah Jefferson. Stewart, who overcame an early ankle roll in the first quarter, recovered nicely with a double-double to lead the U.S. in points (26) and rebounds (12). Jefferson posted 21 points, including a team-high three three-pointers.
“Breanna and Moriah are champions in every sense of the word,” Bluder said.
“When Breanna went down with her ankle that was scary. Losing Tiffany Mitchell the other day was hard enough and we couldn’t afford to lose two starters. I was very thankful when she was able to walk it off and come back into the game.”
The U.S. got off to a strong start, shooting 44 percent from the floor and 56 percent from beyond the arc, but had to stave off a relentless Brazil team in the second half.
Brazil clawed its way back in front, establishing a two-point lead in the third on a Carina Martins three-pointer, but a late push in the quarter allowed U.S. to pull back in front and take a seven point advantage into the final 10 minutes.
Team USA, which led by as much as 12 in the fourth, held off Brazil’s final push to record its opening round victory.
“To face the adversity of having a lead, relinquishing the lead, staying calm and in control, and being able to come back for a victory this early in the tournament is really big,” Bluder said.
“If it happens again we can draw upon that experience and know we’ve been there before. We’ve shown tonight that we can handle that adversity.”
While the win is sweet for Team USA, it is back to the drawing board as the group has less than 24 hours to prepare for its next opponent. The U.S. (1-0) will face the Dominican Republic (0-1), a team that fell to Puerto Rico in its opening game, Friday at 8 p.m. (CT).
Bluder and her staff will break down film and prepare a scouting report tonight, meet with the players in the morning to go over the game plan, and get some shots up in the early afternoon. After that, rest is on the menu.
Fans can watch the 8 p.m. contest live online on ESPN3.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Keep up with head coach Lisa Bluder and the 2015 U.S. Pan American Women’s Basketball team as they vie for a gold medal at the Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada, this week.
Team USA opens competition with preliminary games against Brazil, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico on July 16-18, respectively. Semifinals will take place on July 19, followed by medal contests on July 20.
Fans can watch each preliminary game live online on ESPN3.
Following each contest, visit hawkeyesports.com for exclusive coverage complete with comments from Bluder — head coach of the Red, White, and Blue.
For additional content, follow @usabasketball, @lisabluder, and @iowawbb on Twitter, follow @usabasketball, @lisabluder, and @iowawbb on Instagram, and like USA Basketball and Iowa Women’s Basketball on Facebook.
2015 U.S. Pan American Women’s Basketball Team Schedule
Thursday, July 16 at 8 p.m. (CT) — U.S. vs Brazil — ESPN3
Friday, July 17 at 8 p.m. (CT) — U.S. vs Dominican Republic — ESPN3
Saturday, July 18 at 8 p.m. (CT) — U.S. vs Puerto Rico — ESPN3
Semifinals – Sunday, July 19
9:30 a.m. (CT) — 7th vs 8th
12:30 p.m. (CT) — Semifinal
5 p.m. (CT) — 5th vs 6th
8 p.m. (CT) — Semifinal
Medal Games — Monday, July 20
3 p.m. (CT) — Bronze Medal Game
7:45 p.m. (CT) — Gold Medal Game