Stanford junior Erica McCall collected 19 points and 11 rebounds and the United States women's basketball team rallied from a 15-point deficit to edge Japan, 102-98, in the semifinals of the World University Games in Gwangju, Korea on Saturday.
The Americans meet Canada in Monday's championship contest, slated for a 6 p..m. local tip-off. "I think they'll bring a lot of inside-out play, using their posts. They've got quick guards who like to attack," McCall said.
The contest was just the second overtime game for the United States in World University Games history, and the first since dropping a 93-89 decision to Yugoslavia at the 1987 games in Zagreb, Yugoslavia.
"Emotional is the right word," McCall said. "That was absolutely crazy. After those two free throws, I was going ballistic, but my teammates all helped me keep my composure by telling me that we're going to be OK, we're going to fight back and get it. I can only thank them for helping me out in that situation."
McCall had an opportunity to win it in the first overtime. She grabbed a rebound on the defensive end with 25.7 seconds to go and Jordin Canada missed a shot with about 10 seconds to go, but Mercedes Russell came up with the rebound.
Her attempt was off, but McCall was fouled in a scramble for the rebound and sent to the line with two free-throw attempts and no time left on the clock. She missed both.
McCall scored the first basket of the second overtime, blocked a shot on the other end, and the Americans never trailed again. McCall made her final four free throws to put the USA up, 98-90, with 42 seconds remaining.
"The biggest thing was just talking to each other, communication," McCall said. "We had to know where our teammates were and who was coming through, cutting. Communication was definitely the biggest thing."
Japan was red-hot from the field to start the game. The game was tied at 6 early when the Japanese went on a 14-4 run that put the USA in a double-digit hole. Japan pushed its cushion to 15 points, 26-11, with 1:36 left in the second quarter.
Japan shot an improbable 63 percent (12-of-19) in the first period , including four from 3-point range. On the other end of the floor, the United States went 6-of-17 (35 percent) with five turnovers.
"They were quick and scrappy. They knew how to attack and kick out." McCall said. "We really just had to adjust. Help side is a really big thing that you're used to doing in college basketball and right now in these situations, we had to limit our help. They're a really good team and I'm glad we could pull it out."
The United States steadily chipped away at its 14-point first-quarter deficit as the second period began. The team would come as close as four after a free throw from Russell made it 37-33 with 3:42 to go in the half. A late jumper by Masami with 2.3 seconds to go in the second quarter helped Japan take a 43-36 lead into the locker room.
Aerial Powers hit a pair of free throws with 6:11 left in the third quarter to tie the game at 45. The U.S. took its first lead on a Courtney Williams hit a jumper with 1:44 left in the third quarter, making it 54-52.
Mercedes Russell put the U.S. ahead 77-75 with 1:05 left in the fourth, but Japan tied it with 10 seconds left and Russell missed a long jumper at the buzzer.