Aug. 31, 2001
BEIJING, China - The USA Basketball Women's World University Games Team (7-1) triumphed over China (6-2) Friday night for the third time in two weeks to earn the gold medal. After a close first quarter, the USA held the lead and kept control of the game, eventually sailing in for the 87-69 win. The squad was led by Shereka Wright's (Purdue / Copperas Cove, Texas) 22 points and nine rebounds and 1999 World University Games veteran Ayana Walker's (Louisiana Tech / Houston, Texas) double-double of 19 points and 19 rebounds.
"To finish like this with a national team and to come back the way we did after losing to Canada and to keep the team focused and actually win in front of 18,000 people in China was just an amazing feat because I thought the China team was a very, very good team," said USA and University of Virginia head coach Debbie Ryan. "Having to beat them three times in a row was very difficult in two weeks. I was very proud of my players. I think we had great karma on this team. We had very hard-working players and from top to bottom we were very focused and ready to play and I'm just really proud to be a part of it."
"I'm just so excited for the team and everyone because we worked so hard," said team captain Kara Lawson (Tennessee / Alexandria, Va.). "To beat a great team like China three times is a huge accomplishment. I'm just really proud of this team."
The USA went on top 5-0 in the first minute of the game. China found their offense and tied the game at 7-7 with 5:45 to play in the first period before going on their own 5-0 scoring run to put the score at 12-7. Wright responded with six points for the USA while China added two free throws to edge the Americans 14-13 at the 3:20 mark. Walker tallied nine points in the USA's next four possessions as the USA women went up 25-21 at the end of the first quarter.
China opened the second quarter with four points, closing the USA's lead to 25-24, but that is as close as they would come. Clemson's Chrissy Floyd (Laurens, S.C.) added two points and then passed off a steal by Caton Hill (Oklahoma / Ada, Okla.) to Chantelle Anderson (Vanderbilt / Vancouver, Wash.) for two more points and a free throw which put the USA team ahead 30-24. China stayed in the game by making 14 of 16 free throw attempts in the first half. The second period ended with the USA again ahead by four, 45-41.
"I don't think it's sunk in," said Hill. "I really think we deserve this as a team because we totally played our hearts out in this game. To know that we came together, played in one of the toughest situations I've ever played in, and won is just unbelievable. It means a lot to me and everybody else."
In the third quarter, the Americans expanded their lead, going up by as many as nine points three times, while the fourth quarter saw the USA lead grow from five to 13 points in less than two minutes. Lawson, Roulier, Walker, Wright and Stanford's Cori Enghusen (Bothell, Wash.), who blocked four Chinese attempts, continued to step up, combining for all of the team's 42 second half points, securing the USA's win.
"We knew they (China) would come out hard, wanting to win because they had already lost to us twice," said Floyd. "We came out tough in the beginning and we just stayed strong. I think everybody came out with the right mindset tonight. Everybody wanted it and everybody played hard. It's a great feeling and I'm happy for everybody here."
Roulier finished with 15 points while Lawson tallied 13. The USA squad shot 50 percent (9-18) from the 3-point line, while outrebounding China 42-32.
"It was so exciting," said Lindsey Yamasaki (Stanford / Oregon City, Ore.). "I felt this game was by far our best game because everyone contributed, whether it was on the bench or on the floor. We all had our hearts in it tonight and people stepped up and played amazing basketball. I think it was just our turn, our night. Coach Ryan said you don't get many opportunities to play for a championship, but this is one and we took advantage."
The USA and China had played each other twice in the past two weeks with the Americans winning both games. The first meeting was on Aug. 16 in Zhangjiagang, China where the USA women defeated the Chinese 92-89 in the final game of the Dong Du Cup. The teams met again on Aug. 28 in the quarterfinal round of the World University Games where the Americans earned an 89-78 victory.
Ryan is assisted by University of Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder and East Carolina University (N.C.) head coach Dee Stokes.
With the win, the USA Women have earned 12 medals in 13 appearances, including five golds, six silvers and one bronze medal, and have compiled an overall record of 74-15 (83.1 winning percentage) since beginning World University Games play in 1973.