U.S. Loses At Cuba In Pan Am Games Tuneup

July 23, 2003

HAVANA, Cuba - The USA Basketball Women's Pan American Games Team lost a suspenseful game to a very physical and athletic Cuban squad, 70-67 in the final seconds of the game on Tuesday night in front of a national Cuban television audience.

Both teams will continue exhibition play on Wednesday, July 23, at 9 p.m. (EDT) at Coliseo De La Ciudad Deportiva (Havana, Cuba). Originally the games were scheduled to be played in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba, but they were moved to the capital city of Cuba to accommodate the large expected crowds for the trio of exhibition games.

'There is a lot of things we need to improve on, but what we learned tonight was the physical nature of the game on this level,' commented USA Pan American Games Team and University of Virginia head coach Debbie Ryan. 'We really do not have the strength yet and we're not in basketball shape to play against that kind of pressure and strength the Cuban team possesses. Tomorrow we need to execute on offense better if we want to compete against this team.'

Stanford senior-to-be Nicole Powell played 28 minutes in a starting role, and had five points and three rebounds (one offensive). She was 2-of-5 from the floor (1-of-2 from 3-point range) to go along with a steal and a foul.

The U.S. was led by 17 points from Jamie Carey (Texas / Thornton, Colo.), and 14 more from Iciss Tillis (Duke / Tulsa, Okla.).

In the first quarter, it was all Carey who accounted for 10 of the USA's 13 first period points. After opening the game with a spectacular spinning layup that drew a loud applause from the Cuban fans, she answered back with two 3-pointers in the opening seven minutes of the game. However, the quicker and stronger Cuban players were unstoppable down low and they captured the 19-13 lead after the first period.

Down by four points with 6:01 remaining in the second, Janel McCarville (Minnesota / Stevens Point, Wis.) drew an offensive foul to give the Americans the ball and Jenni Benningfield (Vanderbilt / Louisville, Ky.) took advantage of the possession by connecting on a jump shot to pull the team within one point, 26-25. However, Cuba's Yuliseni Soria answered back with a 3-pointer and the Cubans danced out to an 11-2 run until Nicole Powell (Stanford / Phoenix, Ariz.) hit a last second 3-pointer to reduce the host Cuban's lead at the break to 37-30.

The Americans failed to make a basket in the first 3:30 of the third period, and after being outscored 20-12, it appeared the Cubans would skip in for an easy victory as they held on to a 57-42 advantage heading into the final quarter.

However, the determined U.S. squad refused to give up and early in the fourth period Roneeka Hodges (Florida State / New Orleans, La.) hit a much needed 3-pointer to make the score, 57-45 at 8:12. The U.S. team scored eight consecutive baskets and with 1:43 remaining in the final period, Carey knocked down a 3-pointer to pull the team within five points, 66-61.

The Cuban team answered back with a quick basket and the USA's Rebekkah Brunson (Georgetown / Oxon Hill, Md.) raced down for a layup with 1:10 left to make the score, 68-63. Lisdeiuis Victores completed the Cuban's final basket of the game on the next possession and with 47 seconds left and Cuba owning a 70-63 lead, it seemed the game might be over. However, Ann Strother (Connecticut / Castle Rock, Colo.) drained a deep 3-pointer and with 38 seconds left on the clock , and after the U.S. defense forced a Cuba miss, Carey dribbled the length of the court and was fouled in the paint with :20 left. She connected on one of her two free throws to close the gap to 70-67. After attempting to steal the ball by putting on a full court press, the Americans did not gain possession again and the Cubans walked away with a 70-67 win.

Besides Carey and Tillis, Brunson was the only other U.S. member to score in double figures with 12 points. Soria guided the Cuban team with 17 points while Yaima Boulet accounted for 14 points, respectively.

Overall, the USA shot 45.2 percent (28-62 FGs) from the field, and made 8-of-22 3-pointers (36.4 percent).

--- Story courtesy of USA Basketball

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