(NEWS RELEASE) -- The 2013 USA Basketball Women’s World University Games Team (1-0) had 34 assists and shot 66.2 percent from the field to open preliminary round play with a 120-32 victory over Mali (0-1) on Monday night at Olympic Sport Hall in Kazan, Russia.
Bria Hartley (University of Connecticut/North Babylon, N.Y.) led six U.S. players who scored in double figures with 17 points on a perfect 7-of-7 shooting performance, including 3-of-3 from beyond the 3-point arc. Shoni Schimmel (University of Louisville/Mission, Ore.) added 13 points and a game-high nine assists to propel the team to 34 total assists, a USA World University Games record (the previous high was 27 done most recently versus Taiwan on Aug. 21, 2011).
“We got out in transition, ran really well, and Shoni Schimmel sort of opened the flood gates for us with her passing ability when we had advantages in transition offense,” said USA head coach Sherri Coale (University of Oklahoma). “And just every day that we play together, we get a little bit more comfortable with one another. The chemistry was better, and we communicated better on defense. Every opportunity to log minutes on the floor together as a unit makes us better.”
Cassie Harberts (University of Southern California/San Clemente, Calif.) added 14 points; Tricia Liston (Duke University/River Forest, Ill.) had 13 points; Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (University of Connecticut/Anaheim Hills, Calif.) scored 12 points; and Aaryn Ellenberg (University of Oklahoma/Las Vegas, Nev.) contributed 11 points to give the U.S. six players that scored in double figures. Theresa Plaisance (Louisiana State University/New Orleans, La.) led the USA with 11 rebounds.
The USA shot 66.2 percent from the field (47-71 FGs), 47.8 percent from three-point territory (11-23 3pt FGs) and 93.8 percent from the line (15-16 FTs) to turn in an outstanding all-around performance. Meanwhile, the USA held Mali to just 19.4 percent from the field (12-62 FGs) and forced them to turn the ball over 21 times.
Mali scored the game’s first five points before the USA went on an 18-0 run, including eight straight points from Liston, to take an 18-5 lead with 4:56 remaining in the first period. Mali responded with a 7-0 run of their own to tighten the game to 18-12, but the USA would not let it get that close again as they closed the period on a 10-0 run to take a 28-12 lead after the first period.
Holding a 38-17 lead with under five minutes remaining in the first half, Schimmel took over for the USA, distributing six assists on seven U.S. field goals from 4:51 to 42 seconds in the second quarter as the USA lead ballooned to 57-20 heading into halftime.
“Hitting the open player, getting in position to find that open player, and having my guards and everybody run, it just helped a lot,” said Schimmel on what allowed her to tally nine assists for the game. “It took getting used to playing with everybody, and it finally came together.”
After closing the first half on an 8-0 run, the USA scored the first 17 points of the third quarter to total a game-high 25-0 run and push the lead to 74-20 with 5:56 left in the third period on a Hartley 3-pointer assisted by Odyssey Sims (Baylor University/Irving, Texas), who had six assists for the game. The USA outscored Mali 37-8 overall for the third period.
“I don't really know why I was so hot,” said Hartley on her perfect outing from the field. “Warming up, I was thinking, 'I like this gym,' and I was hitting shots. My teammates were able to find me, Shoni and Odyssey, and I was just able to knock down shots.”
The USA held Mali to just four points in the fourth quarter, while scoring 26 to end the game with its largest lead of 88 points.
Next up for the USA is a meeting with Monday’s other Group B winner, Czech Republic (1-0), on July 9 at 8:30 p.m. (times listed are local; Kazan, Russia is +8 hours from EDT). Czech Republic defeated Brazil 86-63 prior to the USA’s opener. The USA will conclude preliminary round play on July 10 at 12:30 p.m. against Brazil.
Also today, Russia beat Mongolia 123-23 and Sweden beat Poland 69-48 in Group A. In Group C, Canada defeated Japan 76-48 while Chinese Taipei beat Ukraine 84-68. In Group D, China topped Finland 74-62 and Australia outscored Hungary 79-53.
Following the preliminary round, the first and second-placed teams in each of the four pools advance to the medal quarterfinals on July 12 to compete for first through eighth places; while the remaining teams will play out for ninth to 16th places. The semifinals will be played on July 13, and the finals will be contested on July 15.
The USA is looking for its third straight gold medal at the World University Games women’s basketball competition, and ninth overall.
Additional comments from Shoni:
What was the team able to do to be so successful?
“I think we just got comfortable with each other, and started feeling out our games with each other, and being able to pass the ball and being able to read each other, it just got us going. We got the jitters out in the first quarter, so for us to be able to do that, it worked in our favor.”
On her nine assists:
“Just hitting the open player, getting in position to find that open player, and having my guards and everybody run, it just helped a lot. It took getting used to playing with everybody, and it finally came together.”
How did if feel to open play in the World University Games?
“I felt like we had been here forever, and for us to be able to get that one game under out belt it was a good start, especially doing what we did tonight.”