Sports

USA women gear up for semifinal game against unbeaten Australia

 

It took all of five minutes to guarantee the United States women's basketball team a spot in the championship semifinals of the World University Games in Shezhen, China.

The Americans scored the game's first 21 points en route to a 96-30 victory over Finland in Thursday's quarterfinals.

The Finnish women finally scored 5:58 into the game and it took an offensive rebound and putback to accomplish. By then Finland had already missed 11 shots (one a block by Stanford senior Nnemkadi Ogwumike) and committed six turnovers. The Finnish also went a full two minutes without attempting a shot.

Elena Delle Donne, who originally committed to Connecticut but found happiness at Delaware, her home state, scored the game's first eight points and finished with a game-high 17.

"We knew we wanted to come out with a strong start because we hadn't done that very well, especially in our last game," said Delle Donne, who also finished with six rebounds and three assists. "So we knew that was really important. We studied our scouting report really hard. Offensively, our shots were falling, and defensively, we were just attacking."

Four others also reached double figures: Devereaux Peters matched Delle Donne's 17, Nneka Ogwumike had 12 and Jackie Gemelos and Chiney Ogwumike each scored 10.

"We came out with a lot of fire," Nneka Ogwumike said. "It was the first game we really focused on the scouting report. We knew their tendencies and what each player did, and I think we just came out with a relentless attitude. We wanted to execute and defend well, and that's what contributed to our fast start, and also making shots."

Nneka Ogwumike put together her own 8-0 run in the opening minutes of the second quarter, and by halftime the U.S. led 53-17.

"

Coach is always talking about how we need to pass the ball to the open person, and I think we did a really good job of finding each other," Ogwumike said. "They were leaving people open as we rotated the ball, and we took advantage of those looks."

The competition gets tougher Friday when the U.S. and Australia, both undefeated, square off in the Final Four.

"We are excited," Ogwumike said. "Obviously, it is fun to win big, but it's also fun to play a really great team and we are ready."

Australia advanced with a 79-44 victory over Canada. Taiwan (4-0) and Sweden (2-2) meet in the other semifinal.

"Australia is a great team, and we know that," U.S. coach Bill Fennelly said. "They are big, they are physical. They have a lot of experience and a lot of professional players on that team. I feel like the boy that cried wolf trying to tell the team that a tough game is coming, and in the first four games it hasn't. We'll get one. We've got to make our free throws and give the attention to detail that every coach talks about. It will be exciting, and I think it will be one of the better games of the tournament."

The USA defense forced 29 turnovers and held Finland to just 16.7 percent from the field. The Finnish attempted 31 3-pointers, making five.

The Americans suited up 11 players, with Odyssey Sims unavailable with a sore right knee. She's expected to play Friday.

— Palo Alto Online Sports

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