Aug. 14, 2011
SHENZHEN, China -- Notre Dame fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters (Chicago, Ill./Fenwick) nearly posted a double-double in her international debut, while Fighting Irish junior guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) and senior guard Natalie Novosel (Lexington, Ky./Lexington Catholic) made up an all-Notre Dame starting backcourt for the United States, as the Stars & Stripes rolled to a 112-53 win over Brazil in its World University Games opener on Sunday morning (late Saturday night in South Bend) at the Universiade Main Gym in Shenzhen, China.
Peters finished with nine points and a team-high nine rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench, while Diggins had an equally packed statistical line with nine points and game highs of six steals and five assists in just 16 minutes of action. Like Peters, Novosel was making her USA Basketball debut and earned her way into the starting lineup for the opener, collecting two points, three rebounds and two assists in 13 minutes.
Elena Delle Donne (Delaware) led five Americans in double figures with 17 points, while Nnemkadi Ogwumike (Stanford) and Odyssey Sims (Baylor) added 14 points apiece, and the Tennessee tandem of Glory Johnson and Shekinna Stricklen each chipped in with 12 points. Collectively, the United States shot 47.7 percent (42-of-88) in the victory, while holding Brazil to a .241 field goal percentage (20-of-83) and forcing 28 Brazilian turnovers (six on Diggins' steals). In fact, the final score could have been even more lopsided, were it not for some hiccups at the foul line for Team USA (19-of-33, .576).
The United States returns to the hardwood at 10 a.m. Monday (10 p.m. ET Sunday night in South Bend) when it squares off with Slovakia in another preliminary round matchup in Shenzhen.
"I'm glad we finally got a chance to play," said Bill Fennelly, United States head coach (as well as the skipper at Iowa State University and a former assistant at Notre Dame). "I think I was more nervous than the players, to be honest with you. It's nice to get everyone involved and get our first win. Overall, I thought the last 16 minutes of the first half we really played well. We defended and shared the ball. We had scrimmaged Brazil (last week), and to the players' credit, they played with a lot of emotion even though I think they knew we probably should have won the game. It was exciting to finally put the uniform on and get started. Our goal is to win every quarter, and we won four quarters today. I was pleased overall.
"We have 12 great players," he added. "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."
The United States struck first and never trailed in Sunday's opener. 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 jumper by Novosel at 9:21 to play in the half, put the game virtually out of reach, 27-6.
Brazil, coached by former WNBA champion Janeth Arcain (Houston Comets), 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 three-pointers from Stricklen, who hit her fourth after Delle Donne netted two, the USA reeled off 17 consecutive points to take a commanding 46-13 lead with 3:49 to go before halftime.
By intermission, 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.
Brazil's Nadia Colhado was her team's leading scorer with 16 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
Following Monday's game with Slovakia, the Americans will close out preliminary round action Tuesday evening against Great Britain, with that contest to tip off at 6 p.m. local time (6 a.m. ET in South Bend). The medal quarterfinals are set for Thursday, with the semifinals on Friday and the finals on Aug. 21.
The World University Games are a multi-sport competition organized every other year by the International University Sports Federation (FISU). The U.S. 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 (.856) overall record. In 2009, the USA posted a 7-0 slate en route to the gold medal.
Additional quotes, photos and other information on the USA Basketball World University Games Team can be found at www.usabasketball.com.
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