Delaware's Elena Delle Donne scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in helping the United States women's basketball team down Australia, 79-67, in the semifinals of the World University Games in Shenzhen, China on Friday.
Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins added 17 points and four assists for the Americans (5-0), who will play Chinese Taipei (5-0) in Sunday's championship game.
Taipei advanced with a slim, 71-70, victory over Sweden. Yingli Huang made one of two free throws with two seconds remaining in overtime for the margin of victory.
"We are going to go from the biggest, strongest team we've seen to the shortest, quickest team we've seen," USA coach Bill Fennelly said. "It will be an interesting game, and we have one day to prepare."
The U.S. survived a physical contest, winning the rebounding battle by a 54-41 margin and creating more opportunities on turnovers. The U.S. scored eight second-chance points and had a 6-0 margin in points off turnovers.
"Australia was an outstanding team, a big, physical team," Fennelly said. "Our team played the way a USA Basketball team should play in a semifinal, trying to get to a gold medal game. Elena was fantastic from start to finish. Skylar got us organized offensively and defensively, and I thought Lynetta Kizer gave us a great lift off of the bench when Nneka (Ogwumike) got in foul trouble."
Australia blocked nine shots, three each by Cayla Francis and Marianna Tolo. Francis had 15 points and 14 rebounds for the game. Nicole Hunt led the Aussies with 18 points.
The Americans utilized a 9-0 run at the start of the second half to give themselves some breathing room at 40-27, though it was never easy.
"I think we wore them down a little bit in the second half, and they were probably a little tired from running up and down with us because we really get out in transition," said Delle Donne. "Also, we were really grabbing rebounds and limiting their second chances."
The U.S. was never up by more than eight during the first half, and was scoreless over the final 3:40 of the second quarter, allowing the Aussies to pull within 31-27 by halftime.
Diggins, Delle Donne, Peters and Stricklen, who knocked down a 3-pointer, each netted points out of the intermission to help the U.S. gain some control of the proceedings.
Australia drew within 43-38 with 3:51 remaining in the third quarter. That was as close as it would get the rest of the way as the Americans eventually extended their lead to 18 points. Nnemkadi Ogwumike sank two free throws with just under three minutes remaining to play to put the U.S. up, 76-58.
The U.S. and Australia entered the game as the top two offenses in the tournament. The Americans held a 157-point advantage over their first three opponents while Australia was a plus-90.
Australia has averaged 83 points a contest through the semifinals, while the Americans are scoring at a 97.2 pace. The U.S. is also the top defensive team, allowing 50.2 points per contest. Russia is next at 54.3.
Foul trouble limited Nneka Ogwumike's minutes in the first half as she was whistled for her second foul at 6:41 in the first stanza and did not reenter the game until the second half. She and her sister Chiney were called for four each. Australia also was hampered by fouls as 2010 Australia World Championship Team member Abby Bishop fouled out of the game and three of her side's top players had four apiece by the end of the night.
"Bless the officials because we were both in there fighting," said Chiney Ogwumike. "Australia plays a different style of basketball than us, and some of the things they do, like the way they set screens and they way the cut through the paint, are different than what we have seen. We struggled with that, and they struggled with the way we played inside and our post presence. Luckily, none of us fouled out, and I think that is a testament to our poise."
As for Chinese Taipei?
"They are the most efficient team I have seen here," she said. They are quick, they finish and they stay steady. Knowing us, we have to come out strong, really make defensive stops and rebound. We have a size advantage, but that doesn't mean anything to them. We just have to be ready, and we have to bring home the gold medal."