SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic Sparked by the aggressive fourth-quarter rebounding of Duke forward Iciss Tillis and a double-double by Georgetown forward Rebekkah Brunson, the U.S. recorded its first victory at the 2003 Pan Am Games with a 56-53 victory over Canada on Sunday.
Brunson led the U.S. attack with team-highs in both points (12) and rebounds (10), while Ann Strother (Connecticut), Jenni Benningfield (Vanderbilt) and Barbara Turner (Connecticut) each chipped in eight points. K-States Laurie Koehn, who led the team in scoring in a loss to Cuba on Saturday, went scoreless in 10 minutes of action.
Obviously were pleased to win, said USA head coach Debbie Ryan. We feel better, but its not time to celebrate. We kept telling our team we cant lose intensity in the second half. I thought the key was that we were able to keep the intensity throughout the game defensively.
The U.S. connected on just 30.4 percent of its shots in the contest, including just 27.3 percent from three-point range, but did force 28 turnovers. The Americans also connected on 19-of-24 free throws (79.2 percent), while the Canadians managed to shoot just 42.9 percent from the charity stripe (9-of-21).
Canada used a 12-0 run, including seven points from Michelle Hendry, in the first quarter to take a 15-8 lead. Hendry, who led the Canadians with 21 points, ended the first period with 12 of the teams 20 points.
Stanfords Nicole Powell opened the second period with a free throw and a basket to cut the lead to 20-19. The teams traded baskets over the next few minutes before Canada used a 6-4 run to enter halftime with a 29-26 lead.
Both teams continued to battle back and forth before Benningfield tied the game at 44-all with a basket at the mark. Canada re-took the lead on a free throw by Dianne Norman and a put back of the missed second free throw by Hendry. The Canadians maintained a slim lead until Brunson converted on a three-point play by putting back her own miss and sinking the free throw for a 49-48 U.S. lead.
With score knotted at 50, Carolin Bouchard gave Canada its final lead with a 10-footer in the paint at the mark. Brunson went to the line at and hit the first free throw. On her miss, Tillis tipped the ball into an open area of the floor, where a held ball resulted in a USA possession. Powell grabbed the offensive rebound then swung out to the wing to take a pass back from Tillis and launched what proved to be the winning shot, a three-pointer with 1:27 on the clock.
With remaining, Canadas Teresa Kleindienst went to the line and made the first, but missed on her second and Brunson battled to get the rebound. Brunson missed at the other end, however, Tennessees Loree Moore snagged the offensive board and drove the lane to complete the final basket of the game with 11 seconds remaining.
The U.S. continue preliminary round play on Monday at (CST) facing 2-0 Brazil, which defeated Argentina (1-1) 86-43 in the first game on Sunday.