Ogwumike rises to the occasion

Stanford senior scores 24, has nine rebounds as Team USA wins the gold medal

Stanford senior Nnemkadi Ogwumike saved her best performance for the championship game.

Ogwumike scored 13 of her game-high 24 points in the first quarter and had nine rebounds as the United States women's national basketball team beat Chinese Taipei, 101-66, Sunday to earn the gold medal at the World University Games in Shenzhen, China.

"It feels amazing," Ogwumike said. "Right now, we feel like we are on top of the world, and I think what is most special about this is that we came together and we fought hard. It was a long three months, or as coach would say, 'It's a long time since we all started playing basketball.' I'm just really excited for our team, and we're just really happy to have this gold medal around our necks. "

Australia beat Sweden, 66-56, earlier in the day to earn the bronze medal.

The Americans (6-0) completed a throughly dominating run through the tournament, winning by an average of nearly 45 points a contest. They outscored their opponents 97.7-52.8 in winning its fourth consecutive gold medal and eighth in 16 World University Games appearances.

The U.S. owns an all-time 95-15 record at the Games and has six silver medals and a bronze medal to its resume.

The Americans also set a single-game record with 27 assists, with Elena Delle Donne (8) and Skylar Diggins (6) combining for 14 of them.

Delle Donne added 18 points and 11 rebounds while Diggins scored 129 points. Stanford sophomore Chiney Ogwumike scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds.

"We wanted to go to Nneka early and often, and we did," U.S. coach Bill Fennelly said. "She was even better than the game she played two years ago (in the U19 World Championship gold medal game). I think that says a lot about her, not just her talent, but her commitment and focus. You want your best players to step up at the biggest times, and a gold medal game is a good time to step up and do the things you can do."

Ogwumike, who also added four assists and a pair of steals, used her height advantage to give the Americans a big presence in the paint, where the U.S. outscored Taiwan, 62-22.

"Our game plan was definitely to pound the ball inside," Ogwumike said. "We played Australia, which was a whole different extreme. Their shortest post player was 6-3. And then we played Taiwan and their tallest person was 6-1. We just kind of took advantage of what they had and what we had, and we executed as best we could."

Ogwumike was 9-of-11 from the field and 6-of-7 from the foul line. She also had a game-high four offensive rebounds as the Americans outrebounded Taiwan, 52-18.

"I was very honored to be selected for the World University Games, and we've been working hard for the past few months," Ogwumike said. "We put together a team that we thought was the most talented and the most cohesive in terms of teamwork and collaboration, and we've had a lot of fun. I'm extremely excited that we won the gold, but also really happy that we were able to compete with such great teams here. To be able to not only play with my sister on a USA team, but win a gold medal is something that a lot of people can't say."

Ogwumike has been to three consecutive NCAA Final Fours, is a first team All-American and a Pac-10 Player of the Year. She's won two other gold medals on the international stage. She said there's still a lot to learn.

"The thing I take away from any USA experience is the relationships you form and the things that you learn, not just as a basketball player but as a person," Ogwumike said. "USA Basketball brings out a different characteristic in people because usually you are the best person on your team, you are the most depended on, but here it's more of a collective effort. It brings out a lot of great qualities in basketball that you wouldn't necessarily see."

Fennelly, who coaches Iowa State, said Ogwumike and Diggins were the natural leaders for the U.S.

"It's just amazing," he said. "Nneka and Sky have been through a lot. This is the third time I've had them, twice as an assistant and now as a head coach. They are great players, but they are even better people. I think they were the true leaders of our team. Everyone knew it from the beginning. They followed what we asked them to do, and their experience really paid off and showed the other kids what the international game is all about – the travel and how you just have to fight through it day-by-day. At the end of the day, they have another gold medal and they deserve it."

— Palo Alto Online Sports

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