U.S. Drops Pan Am Games Opener To Cuba

Aug. 2, 2003

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic - Things looked awfully good for the USA Women's Pan American Games Team (0-1) Saturday morning in the first half as the Americans enjoyed a 46-32 lead over defending Pan American Games champ Cuba (1-0) at halftime. But Cuba outscored the USA 24-7 in the third quarter and went on to post the 84-62 win. Ann Strother (Connecticut / Castle Rock, Colo.) and Laurie Koehn (Kansas State / Hesston, Kan.) each scored 11 points to lead the American squad.

Strother pushed the USA to the front by scoring all of her points during a 21-12 USA run that spanned the first quarter break, giving the Americans a 33-20 lead with 6:10 left in the first half. She received scoring support from Koehn, who tossed in a trio of 3-pointers, one short of the USA single-game Pan Am Games record.

The Cubans began to find their game in the latter part of the second quarter, playing virtually even with the USA during the last six minutes to go into the locker room trailing 46-32. The Americans hit 50.0 percent of their first-half field goal attempts and 46.0 percent from 3-point range, while Cuba only made 36.0 percent from the field.

But the USA gave back its advantage by coming out flat in the second half, going scoreless in the first 6:10 of the third quarter while Cuba was hitting virtually everything it put up. Powered by Yuliseni Soria, who scored seven of her 14 points during a 15-0 Cuban run to start the second half, Cuba took the lead with 4:20 left in the third on a left-handed baby hook shot in the paint by Oyanaisis Gelis.

The USA answered with its first points of the half on a put-back by Janel McCarville (Minnesota / Stevens Point, Wis.) with 3:50 left in the period. It was the last lead the USA would enjoy. Liset Castillo tied the score with a free throw at 3:09 and Milaisis Duany scored a transition basket on a feed from Soria with 2:42 left in the third to make the score 50-48 on the way to a 56-53 score at the end of three quarters.

'We were not getting the same shots in the second half, and we started forcing things,' said USA head coach Debbie Ryan (University of Virginia). 'We just did not do a good job defensively from the free throw line down. We gave them way too many second opportunities.

'I told the team I was disappointed with their effort in the second half,' Ryan added. 'They pressured us and we didn't handle it well. Defensive rebounding and missed free throws really hurt us. They got after us defensively and we did not respond.'

Cuba came out hot again in the fourth quarter, reeling off the first eight points before Barbara Turner (Connecticut / Cleveland, Ohio) found the range from 20 feet to make the score 64-55 with 7:11 remaining. A 20-7 run closed out the game for Cuba. The USA hit only 16.7 percent of its field goal attempts in the second half, going 4-for-24, while Cuba made 18-of-29 (62.0 percent) in the final 20 minutes.

Cuba's Yakelin Plutin led all scorers with 18 points. Four other Cubans reached double figures: Martinez with 17, Soria with 14 and Gelis and Suchitel Avila with 10 each. The USA's Rebekkah Brunson (Georgetown / Oxon Hill, Md.) led all rebounders with nine as the Americans won the battle of the boards, 34-28.

Stanford senior-to-be Nicole Powell (Phoenix, AZ) started for the U.S., and had four points (1-of-6 from the fioor, 0-of-4 from 3-point range and 2-of-3 from the free throw line) in 31 minutes. She also had five rebounds (two offensive), four fouls and a turnover.

The USA's next game will be Sunday morning against Canada at 11 a.m. ET.

--- Story courtesy of USA Basketball

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