Aug. 15, 2011
SHENZHEN, China -- Notre Dame junior guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) and fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters (Chicago, Ill./Fenwick) each scored a game-high 14 points to pace six Americans in double figures as the United States cruised past Slovakia, 114-68, on Monday morning (late Sunday night in South Bend) in a World University Games preliminary round game at the Universiade Main Gym in Shenzhen, China.
Diggins made 5-of-9 shots from the field while adding three assists and two steals in 22 minutes. Peters came off the bench to knock down 7-of-13 shots, grabbing four rebounds (all offensive) in 16 minutes. Fighting Irish senior guard Natalie Novosel (Lexington, Ky./Lexington Catholic) joined Diggins in the starting lineup for the second night in a row, finishing with six points, two assists and two steals in 14 minutes.
Stanford's Nnemkadi Ogwumike matched Diggins and Peters with a game-best 14 points, while Chiney Ogwumike (Stanford) added 13 points. Elena Delle Donne (Delaware) and Odyssey Sims (Baylor) chipped in 10 points apiece, with Delle Donne also grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds for the USA's first double-double of the tournament.
As a team, the United States shot a sharp 51.1 percent from the field (45-of-88), including 9-of-25 (.360) from the three-point line. The Americans also held a sizeable 52-28 rebounding margin and forced 23 Slovakian turnovers en route to their second consecutive triple-digit scoring game (the first time the Americans have done that in the World University Games since 2005, when former Notre Dame All-America guard Megan Duffy was the starting point guard for that gold medal-winning side).
The United States closes out preliminary round action at 6 p.m. Tuesday (6 a.m. ET in South Bend) when it faces Great Britain in Shenzhen. The British fell to 1-1 in Group B with a 68-55 loss to Brazil on Monday.
"I thought it was a good overall effort," Diggins said. "(Slovakia) is not a bad team at all. They came out and really competed with us. They never backed down. We had a better start than in our first game, but defensively in the first quarter I think we gave up too many points. In the second quarter, we really picked it up, and I think that's a credit to a lot of people that came off of the bench and kept the intensity up. I thought everyone did a great job. It was a high-scoring game, a lot of people finished in double figures and we did a great job sharing the ball. That helps with the flow of the game. I tried to my best to push the tempo, and we really tried to speed up the pace of the game. We knew we were going to give up points by how many possessions we were giving them because of how fast we were scoring."
"I think we played a little better than yesterday," added Bill Fennelly, United States head coach (as well as the skipper at Iowa State University and a former assistant at Notre Dame). "The pace of the game was what we wanted. Defensively, we struggled in the first quarter and gave up some stuff, but overall everyone contributed. We've seen zone (defense) back-to-back days, and offensively we were a little more efficient. Any time you score 114 points, you can't complain too much."
The Americans led wire-to-wire as Nneka Ogwumike got the game's scoring started with a jumper at 9:49 and her sister, Chiney, hit a bucket on the USA's next possession. After Slovakia got on the board, the U.S. strung together eight unanswered points and it looked as if the game would be put away early. Slovakia began countering the USA's attack, however, and at the end of the first quarter the Europeans trailed by just 30-20.
That was as close as the game would be for the remainder of the contest.
Opening the second quarter with seven consecutive points from three different players, the American women expanded their lead to 37-20 in a little more than a minute. Slovakia got a quick five points from Katarina Pindrochova to stem the tide and close within 12, 37-25 at 7:14.
Chiney Ogwumike grabbed an offensive board and put it back up for two points at 6:53, sparking a 15-0 scoring run from which Slovakia never was able to recover. During the USA's spurt, which saw six different players put points on the board, the defensive pressure by the red, white and blue produced five European turnovers and forced Slovakia into five missed shots. The run was capped by a steal by Sims and a layup by Shekinna Stricklen (Tennessee), one of the USA's nine fast-break buckets in the game, and at 3:10 the game was well in hand, 52-25.
By halftime, the Americans were in command by a 60-34 score. Outscoring Slovakia 25-19 in the third, the U.S. won the fourth quarter, 29-15 for the final margin.
Maria Felixova was Slovakia's leading scorer with 13 points.
After Tuesday's preliminary round matchup with Great Britain, the Americans will turn their attention to the medal round quarterfinals, which are slated for Thursday (time and location to be determined). With a win over Great Britain, the United States would clinch the top spot in Group B and would play at 8:30 p.m. Thursday (8:30 a.m. ET in South Bend) at the Shenzhen Luohu Gym against the runner-up from Group A. Currently, Taiwan (2-0) leads Group A, while Finland and host China are tied for second at 1-1, and Lithuania is 0-2 (Taiwan faces China and Finland meets Lithuania on Tuesday's last day of preliminary round action).
The medal semifinals will take place on Friday, with the finals set for Sunday, 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, and including this year's results to date, the United States has compiled a 91-15 (.858) 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.
For more information on the Notre Dame women's basketball program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women's basketball Twitter pages (@ndwbbsid or @notredamewbb) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the sidebar on the women's basketball page at UND.com.