U.S. Drops Third Straight In Cuba

July 25, 2003

HAVANA, Cuba - Cuba made it a clean sweep, winning the third and final exhibition game against the USA Women's Pan American Games Team in Havana Thursday night by a score of 61-52. Trailing late, the USA rallied in the final period and managed to get within three, 53-50, with 3:22 to play, but Cuba finished the game with an 8-2 scoring run to capture the 61-52 victory. The win was Cuba's third straight over the United States.

Jenni Benningfield (Vanderbilt / Louisville, Ky.) paced the Americans with 14 points while Jamie Carey (Texas / Thornton, Colo.) recorded the first double-double of her career after scoring 11 points and dishing out an outstanding 10 assists.

'I think we identified some critical areas this week, and one of the things we need to work on is blocking out because we will not out-rebound this team,' commented USA Pan American Games Team and University of Virginia head coach Debbie Ryan. 'We need to be more fundamentally sound and work on our defensive slides when someone penetrates. I think we also need to spend a lot of time on offense because trying to run an offense in this short amount of time is difficult. I don't think we are beating ourselves or that the Cubans are unbeatable. I think we are just inexperienced, young, and we need more practice time. We know what we have to do.'

For the third straight night, the U.S. failed to connect on easy baskets early and at the end of the first period Cuba led 18-9 as the USA shot just 4-of-14 (28.9 percentage) from the field, while being out-rebounded 14-6.

Laurie Koehn (Kansas State / Hesston, Kan.) entered the game at 7:45 in the second period and immediately nailed a 3-pointer. Carey followed with a steal and after she found Barbara Turner (Connecticut / Cleveland) for a bucket, the USA had pulled within five points at 21-16 with 5:45 remaining. Cuba assembled a 10-5 run over the final minutes of the half to take a 31-21 halftime lead.

Down by 10 to start the third quarter, Cuba, fueled by its outside shooting, expanded its lead to the biggest margin of the night of 41-28. Ryan called timeout and Benningfield answered the call for the U.S. by sinking a 3-pointer to make it 41-31, and two possessions later she completed a 10-foot jumper at the top of the key to pull the U.S. within eight points, 41-33. The teams exchanged baskets over the final three minutes and at the end of the third period Cuba held a 46-39 lead over the USA.

At 3:22 in the final campaign, Rebekkah Brunson (Georgetown / Oxon Hill, Md.) drove the lane and converted a basket and the U.S. closed within three points of its rivals at 53-50. But Cuba's Yamile Martinez drove the length of the court for an untouched layup and Cuba closee the final quarter with an 8-2 run to wrap up the 61-52 victory.

Carey and Benningfield were the only U.S. players in double scoring figures. Martinez and Yuliseni Soria guided Cuba with 17 points a piece.

Stanford senior-to-be Nicole Powell (Phoenix, AZ) played 30 minutes and had nine points on 4-of-14 shooting from the floor, including 1-of-5 from 3-point range. She also had two rebounds (one offensive), two assists and three turnovers.

Overall, the U.S. team shot a cold 31.4 percent (16-51 FGs) from the field, and made 7-of-27 threes (25.8 percent). Cuba likewise struggled with its shooting, making just 37.3 percent. Cuba also held the upper hand on the glass, out-rebounding the U.S. 44-to-33.

Opening its training on July 17, the USA Basketball Pan American Games Team is currently training for the 2003 Pan American Games that will be played Aug. 2-9 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

The U.S. squad will now return to the United States where it will train July 26-28 at the Berkeley Prep School (Tampa, Fla.), then journey to Santo Domingo. The team will practice at 6:00 p.m. on July 26, followed by two-a-days at 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on July 27 and 28.

--- Story courtesy of USA Basketball

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