U.S. Earns Silver Medal At Pan Am Games

Aug. 9, 2003

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic - Tapping its years of experience and recent familiarity with its opponent, defending Pan American Games champ Cuba (6-1) ran to a 75-64 victory over the USA Basketball Women's Pan American Games team (5-2) to claim the gold medal Saturday evening in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

The win was Cuba's fifth over the USA squad in 18 days, including three exhibition games in Havana prior to the start of the Pan Am tournament. The United States, which has always finished among the top three at the 12 Pan Ams held since they began in 1955, has now captured six golds, four silvers and two bronze medals, while compiling a 67-12 overall record (.848 winning percentage) in Pan American Games play.

'I thought we played tight in the first half,' said U.S. head coach Debbie Ryan (University of Virginia). 'We made several good runs at them, but they were never enough to take the lead. They're very physical on defense and bigger than we are. We were never able to get into a rhythm. We were unlucky early, but it was because we were going too fast. We were playing at their pace, and it's difficult to stay with them when playing at that tempo.

'I'm proud of the effort of this team over the entire trip,' added the Americans' mentor. 'This team came together in a big, big way. I'm pleased and proud that we were able to represent the United States in the gold medal game.'

Cuba used its up-tempo game to break out on top early and rattle the younger American team, and while the USA was successful in getting the ball inside, it was unable to get a number of close shots to fall.

Cuba led 20-15 midway through the second quarter and the Cubans then assembled a 10-2 run to take a 30-17 lead with 4:33 left in the half. Loree Moore (Tennessee/Harbor City, Calif.) and Laurie Koehn (Kansas State University/ Hesston, Kan.) combined for an 8-2 run to cut the gap to 32-25 with 3:41 to go. Cuba closed out the half with two baskets in the paint while the USA was only able to tally a Moore free throw and heading to the locker room at intermission Cuba held the upper hand 36-26.

The USA trimmed the margin to four after a basket in the paint by Rebekkah Brunson (Georgetown/Oxon Hill, Md.) made the score 45-41 with 5:16 left in the third period. Cuba then went on yet another run, this one a 13-5 spurt that pushed its lead to 58-46 with 2:05 left in the period and at the end of the third quarter the score stood at 60-51.

A Brunson basket to open the fourth quarter lifted the USA's hopes, but Cuba reeled off six unanswered points to push the margin out to 13, 66-53, with 7:01 remaining. A 3-point play by Brunson with 2:33 cut the Cuban lead to six at 70-64, but the USA's scoring ended there and the Cubans closed the deal with a Yakelin Plutin 3-point play and a pair of Liset Castillo free throws for the final 74-64 score.

The USA was led by Brunson's 16 points, while Moore added 13 and a game best three steals, Jenni Benningfield (Vanderbilt/Louisville, Ky.) recorded 10 and added a team high four assists. Moore led all rebounders with nine boards. Stanford senior-to-be Nicole Powell (Phoenix, AZ) played 17 minutes off the bench and three rebounds (all defensive) and one foul. Yamile Martinez led all scorers with 21 points, receiving support from Yuliseni Soria's 16.

Chilled shooting was the key factor in the USA loss. While outrebounding Cuba 35 to 32 and winning the battle of turnovers 14 to 15, the USA managed to make just 35.0 percent (21-60 FGs) from the field, and only 3-of-17 (.176 percent) from 3-point range. Cuba, meanwhile, hit on 50.0 percent (28-56 FGs) of its shots, but was successful on only 1-of-15 (.067 percent) attempts from 3-point.

In the bronze medal contest, Brazil (5-2) bounced back from the disappointment of its overtime loss to the U.S. in Friday's semifinals, and defeated Canada (2-5) 57-46.

--- Story courtesy of USA Basketball

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