USA women improve to 3-0 at Pan Ams

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Once again Nicky Anosike and Alexis Hornbuckle played pivotal roles as starters as the USA Women's Pan American Games team improved to 3-0 after handing two-time defending Pan Am champ Cuba (2-1) a 78-63 loss Sunday night.

From her post position, Nicky Anosike logged a team high 32 minutes in the victory tossing in eight points, grabbing five rebounds and snagging five steals. Alexis Hornbuckle added four points, grabbed three rebounds and recorded no miscues in 19 minutes in the backcourt. Marissa Coleman tallied a team high 19 points to lead the USA.

Anosike and Hornbuckle are rising seniors for the national champion Tennessee Lady Vols.

The United States and Cuba entered Sunday's contest with perfect 2-0 records and the U.S women began their third game of the competition with something they hadn't experienced yet – a deficit.

After recording wins by margins of 54 and 31 points, the United States faced its first test of the Pan Ams as Cuba jumped out an early lead and went on to open a seven point first quarter lead.

The U.S. chipped away at Cuba's lead and managed to cut the margin to three following a pair of free throws by Candice Wiggins. The U.S. took a 14-13 lead late in the first quarter on a field goal by Charde Houston and never again relinquished its advantage.

"Cuba was a good basketball team and we didn't play our best basketball tonight so I think it says a lot about our team - to that some point - that we were down, but we fought hard to recapture the lead and keep the lead," said Tasha Humphrey, who added 10 points and was tied for a team-best six rebounds. "We knew they had a lot of experience and we knew that they weren't just going to lay down and die for us, so we came in, we were focused and we prepared mentally for a tough challenge."

Though Cuba cut the United States' lead to just two points on two different occasions in the second quarter, the young American squad kept their composure and built a comfortable 36-24 lead going into halftime.

The United States broke the game open in the third quarter. Outscoring Cuba 11-6 over the first half of the third quarter to take a 47-30 advantage, the USA went on to open a 20 point lead, thanks in large part to Humphrey who added nine of her 10 points in the third quarter.

The U.S. put the game out of reach outscoring Cuba 10-4 to start the final period and sailed in for the impressive 16 point victory.

"Coming into the competition, we knew we were going to play against very experienced, older players and our mindset has to be that we have to wear them out," said USA head coach Dawn Staley. "I don't think there is a team here that is as talented as the 12 people we brought down here. Now they may have played together longer than we have, they may have more experience than we have, but as far as talent for talent, I think we win out. We've been tested, but, we came here to win gold [medal] and until that happens, we're not going to be satisfied."

Holding Cuba to 37.7 percent shooting overall, including just 4-of-20 from 3-point, the United States forced Cuba to turn the ball over 22 times in the contest while recording 14 steals.

Joining Coleman in double figure scoring was Angel McCoughtry, 13 points, and Humphrey, 10 points.

Yaima Boulet led Cuba's effort with 19 points and nine rebounds.

"I think we have a very unselfish team. When we first came to training camp we said that if we were going to win the gold we were going to have to do it together and push all egos aside," said Coleman. "So, when somebody has a hot hand, we're willing to give it [the ball] to them. Tonight it was me, last night it was Emily [Fox] and the past couple of games it's been Tasha [Humphrey]. I think it speaks volumes for how unselfish we are as au team."

Owning the No. 1 seed for Group B, the United States had to wait until the conclusion of the game between Brazil and Canada to find out who they would play on Monday.

"It really doesn't matter who we play. If Brazil wins, we play Canada. If Canada wins, we play Brazil. Either way, we're going to have to play both of them at some point in the next two days," said Staley. "We're going to be well-prepared for either team that we have to face tomorrow and then the next day."

The United States will play Canada in Monday's medal round semifinals at the Rio Multipurpose Arena, while unbeaten host Brazil will meet Cuba.

In other women's basketball action Sunday, Brazil improved to 3-0 with a 77-63 win over Canada (1-2), Jamaica (1-2) defeated Mexico (0-3) 69-45; and Columbia posted its first win, beating Argentina 58-56.

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