USA Women Capture 2009 World University Games Gold Medal With Resounding 83-64 Win Over Russia
July 11, 2009 - Belgrade, Serbia
A monster 28-point, 18-rebound performance from Tina Charles (Connecticut / Jamaica, N.Y.) helped propel the 2009 USA Women's World University Games Team (7-0) past a determined Russia (6-1) 83-64 and on to an undefeated gold medal at the 2009 World University Games on Saturday afternoon in Belgrade, Serbia.
'I'm really proud of this team,' said USA and Arizona State University head coach Charli Turner Thorne. 'They stayed tough, kept working hard. These are some of the best college players in the country, and they showed it tonight. That Russian team has been playing together for years. I coached against them two years ago (at the 2007 FIBA U21 World Championship). For these young ladies to come together in a couple of weeks, be so responsive to what we asked them to do as coaches, to give everything they have for their country, that was awesome.'
Also today, Australia (5-2) defeated Czech Republic (4-3) 88-77 to take home the bronze medal.
The USA dominated the glass, outrebounding Russia 52-32 and scoring 22 second-chance points to Russia's four. Jantel Lavender (Ohio State / Cleveland, Ohio) added 14 points, and Kayla Pedersen (Stanford / Fountain Hills, Ariz.) contributed 11 points and nine rebounds.
'I just wanted to go out and play the way I know how to play,' Charles said. 'I treated this like it was a national championship game or a Big East Conference championship game. I know everybody worked hard, everybody wanted to win, and that's what was always on my mind.'
Less than a minute into the game Charles had put a quick four points up on the board, but Russia answered with a 3-pointer at 8:41 and the score was 4-3 in the USA's favor early on. From there, the USA answered each Russian score until the 2:33 mark, when four straight points from Russia's Elena Danilochkina gave Russia its first lead, 17-16. Russia went on to score five more points to the USA's four to close the period up 22-20. It was the first time the Americans had trailed after the first quarter in all seven games of the tournament.
Russia strung together a 6-0 run to start the second quarter and pushed its lead to the largest of the game, 28-20, at the 8:18 mark. A Jeanette Pohlen (Stanford / Brea, Calif.) 3-pointer at 7:15, followed by a steal and fast-beak bucket from Pohlen at the 6:55 mark, however, launched a 19-3 run that recaptured the U.S. lead, and the games momentum. The streak included points from six U.S. players, and by halftime, the USA had erased the deficit and built an eight-point, 39-31 lead.
The momentum carried through to the second half, which the USA opened with a 9-0 run that forced a Russian timeout at 8:06 after Pedersen converted on a three-point play and the U.S. lead had grown to 48-31. Despite fighting to the end, Russia never again threatened the USA, which outscored its opponent 25-16 in the third period and 19-17 in the fourth quarter to capture the 83-64 win.
'The biggest thing was that we stuck together the whole game,' Pohlen said. 'We were only up by about I think eight at halftime. We talked about sticking to them on defense, digging deep and giving everything we've got. It's our last game, the last time we get to play together. It's been a great trip. It's exciting to come home with the gold.'
Pohlen tallied seven points, six rebounds and five assists; Danielle McCray (Kansas / Olathe, Kan.) contributed six points and three assists; and Jacinta Monroe (Florida State / Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) grabbed six rebounds to go with her four points.
'It's been great,' McCray said. 'The hard work has paid off. From the two-a-days, waking up early in the morning, coming back again in the evening, doing the little things that we had to do feels great. This is something I've been working towards my entire life. It's a huge accomplishment.'
USA Basketball women's teams have participated in 15 World University Games tournaments and collected a record seven golds, 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 record.
In the July 10 classification finals, Poland (5-2) captured 5th place with a 79-74 overtime win over Great Britain (3-4); Taiwan (4-3) needed two overtimes to top Slovakia (2-5) 79-76 and earn 7th place; Japan (4-3) beat China (3-4) 91-86 to finish 9th; Serbia (3-4) placed 11th with a 81-67 win over Hungary (3-4); Turkey (3-4) earned 13th place after downing France (3-4) 69-58; and Canada (2-5) was the 15th place finisher after a 83-65 victory against Mozambique (0-7).
Turner Thorne is assisted on the USA sideline by Suzy Merchant of Michigan State University and Julie Rousseau of Pepperdine University.