U.S. Defeats Canada 56-53 At Pan Am Games

Aug. 3, 2003

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic - Sparked by the aggressive fourth-quarter rebounding of Iciss Tillis (Duke/Tulsa, Okla.) and a double-double by Rebekkah Brunson (Georgetown/Oxon Hill, Md.), the 2003 USA Basketball Women's Pan American Games Team (1-1) recorded its first win of the tournament with an exciting 56-53 victory over Canada (0-2) Sunday afternoon.

'Obviously we're pleased to win,' said USA head coach Debbie Ryan (University of Virginia). 'We feel better, but it's not time to celebrate. We kept telling our team we can't lose intensity in the second half. I thought the key was that we were able to keep the intensity throughout the game defensively.'

Brunson carried the stat load with 12 points and 10 rebounds for the USA's first double-double of the tournament. The intensity the U.S. needed came from Tillis, whose aggressive defensive rebound with 8:15 remaining set the tone for the USA during its fourth-quarter comeback.

In addition, Stanford senior-to-be Nicole Powell (Phoenix, AZ) had six points and four rebounds (two offensive) in 27 minutes off the bench. She was 2-of-3 from the floor, 1-of-2 from 3-point range and 1-of-2 from the foul line, to go along with two assists, two steals and a turnover.

Canada got seven points from Michelle Hendry during a 12-0 run to surge out to a 15-8 lead in the first quarter. Hendry was the workhorse for the Canadians, jockeying for position to get easy baskets underneath or getting a trip to the free throw line in the attempt. She ended the first period with 12 of Canada's 20 points, converting all four of her charity attempts. She ended with a game-high 21 points before fouling out with 153 remaining.

Powell opened the scoring in the second period with a free throw and a basket to cut the Canadian lead to one, 20-19. Hendry followed with a three-point play that was answered in kind by Brunson to make the score 23-22 Canada at the 6:23 mark. Canada outscored the USA 6-4 to go to the halftime locker room ahead 29-26.

After a third period that saw both teams virtually match each other basket for basket, Tillis sparked the Americans with her commanding play under the Canadian backboard. A Jenni Benningfield (Vanderbilt / Louisville, Ky.) basket tied the game at 44 with 8:36 left, and then Tillis set the USA tone for the remainder of the game with an aggressive defensive rebound with 8:15 remaining and Tillis' urgency spread through the team.

'I tried to give us a lift in the fourth quarter and was able to get a lot of tips and rebounds, which gave us easy shots,' said Tillis. 'I knew we needed this win. It gives us confidence.'

Canada pushed ahead 47-44 when Dianne Norman hit the front end of a two-shot foul, then Hendry put back the missed second free throw. A nice USA transition basket that began with a Brunson steal and ended in a Tillis layup pulled the USA back within one, but Canada's Kim Smith made one of two free throws at 4:45 to make the score 48-46. Brunson then converted a three-point play by putting back her own miss underneath and sinking the free throw for a 49-48 lead with 4:13 showing.

Tillis then made the second of two free throws at 4:04, only to have Hendry tie the score at 50 with an inside basket at the 3:05 mark. Carolin Bouchard added a 10-footer in the paint at 2:27 for Canada's final lead of the game. Brunson went to the line at 1:53 and hit her first free throw. On her miss of the second, Tillis tipped the ball into an open area of the floor, where a held ball resulted in a USA possession. Powell crashed the offensive boards on the following USA miss, then swung out to the wing to take a pass back from Tillis and launched what proved to be the winning shot, a 3-pointer with 1:27 on the clock.

With 1:09 left Canada's Teresa Kleindienst went to the line and made the first, but missed on her second and Brunson battled hard to get the rebound. Brunson missed at the other end, however, 5'9' guard Loree Moore (Tennessee / Harbor City, Calif.) grabbed the offensive rebound at the free throw line and drove the lane to complete the final bucket of the game with 11 seconds remaining. Canada had an opportunity to tie the game, but Moore stifled it with a game-saving steal in the right corner with eight seconds left.

The USA women continue preliminary round play Monday at 11:00 a.m. (EST) facing 2-0 Brazil which defeated Argentina (1-1) 86-43 in the first game Sunday morning.the experienced Brazilian team features four former Olympians and four former WNBA players.

In Sunday's other women's action, Cuba (2-0) rolled over the Dominican Republic (0-2) 82-55.

--- Story courtesy of USA Basketball

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