KAZAN, Russia (release) -- The 2013 USA Basketball Women’s World University Games Team (4-0) was tested but went on a 17-2 run in the third quarter to gain separation on the way to a 103-72 victory over Sweden (2-2) in the quarterfinal round on Friday at Basket Hall.
Next up for the USA will be a semifinal match-up at 1 p.m. Eastern time (9 p.m. in Kazan) on Saturday, July 13, where the team will face the winner of tonight’s quarterfinal between Australia (3-0) and Canada (1-2). ESPNU will have Saturday’s telecast. Those in Mountain and Pacific Time Zones, Alaska and Hawaii can see the game online via ESPN3.
Rising Tennessee junior Ariel Massengale (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) turned in her finest performance of the tournament for the U.S. on both ends of the floor. The reserve point guard led the Americans with four assists and contributed nine points, three rebounds and a steal in a tourney-high 23 minutes. She connected on four of six shots from the field, including hitting her only three-point attempt.
Odyssey Sims (Baylor University/Irving, Texas) scored a game-high 20 points, shooting 9-of-9 from the free throw line to set a U.S. World University Games record for most free throw attempts in a game without a miss (previous best performance was 8-of-8 by Adrienne Goodson in 1993 against Russia). Bria Hartley (University of Connecticut/North Babylon, N.Y.) added 17 points, including 11 in the first quarter.
The USA took a 51-40 lead into halftime, which Sweden quickly cut into to bring the score to 53-49 with 6:38 left in the third quarter. The game remained tight, with Sweden trailing 58-52 at the five-minute mark, before the USA put the clamps on defensively and went on a 17-2 run punctuated by Crystal Bradford’s (Central Michigan University/Detroit, Mich.) 3-pointer with 28 seconds remaining in the period to put the USA ahead 75-54.
“Our defense in the second half was much better than it was in the first,” said USA head coach Sherri Coale (University of Oklahoma). “We kept the ball in front and forced them into taking contested shots. We did a much better job on the defensive glass. They are a tremendous offensive rebounding team and go at it very hard. If you can block them out, then you have an advantage in transition on the other end. That was what we were able to do in the second half.”
Sweden had 14 offensive rebounds in the first half, but finished the game with only 16 as the USA’s effort on the defensive boards enabled the second-half U.S. run. The USA continued to extend its lead in the fourth quarter, taking its largest advantage of the game and reaching the century mark on a layup by Massengale to go ahead by 33 points, 100-67, with 2:18 left in the game. The final tally of 103-72 gave the USA its fourth-straight victory of at least 30 points, though Sweden represented the most competitive opponent to date.
The difference for the USA was its defensive efforts in the second half, particularly those of Massengale and Reshanda Gray (University of California/Los Angeles, Calif.) off the bench.
“Reshanda Gray was tremendous tonight,” said Coale. “She came in and defended the post with great activity. She blocked out, she scored a couple of times at the block through a lot of physicality. I thought Ariel Massengale played just as tremendous at distributing the basketball and staying in front of a guy who is very, very hard to guard.”
Out of the gates, the USA went ahead 10-2 in the first three minutes of the game behind two quick 3-pointers by Hartley. Sweden responded with a 7-0 run of its own as the first half began to take on a back-and-forth pace. Sweden tied the game at 24 late in the opening period, and the USA led 26-24 at the first intermission.
Sweden scored the first four points of the second period to take a 28-26 lead with 9:18 remaining before halftime; the deficit marked the first time the USA had trailed since the 7:20 mark in first quarter of the opening game against Mali, a span of more than 128 minutes. The lead would change hands three more times in the quarter before Sweden took what would be its largest lead of the game at 40-37 with 3:59 left in the period. The USA closed the half on a 14-0 run, including four points apiece from Bradford and Sims, to take a 51-40 advantage into the locker room.
Sweden began the second half on a 7-0 run and remained within two possessions until the USA went on its 17-2 spurt in the final five minutes of the third quarter.
“I think we just locked down on defense,” said Massengale on the difference for the USA during its game-changing run. “We knew they were a great team and that they would come out of the half very strong doing what they do best. I think, as a team, we just clicked and came together and got stops when we needed to, which allowed us to push in transition which is what we like to do best.”
Bradford and Tricia Liston (Duke University/River Forest, Ill.) each finished with 11 points to give the USA four scorers in double figures. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (University of Connecticut/Anaheim Hills, Calif.) had a team-high seven rebounds and Massengale led the squad with four assists.
The USA shot 53.5 percent from the field (38-71 FGs), including 41.7 percent from beyond the 3-point arc (10-24 3pt FGs), and 81.0 percent from the line (17-21 FTs). Sweden was held to just 36.1 percent shooting (26-72 FGs) and made only one of 19 3-point attempts (5.3 percent 3pt FGs).