USA team to play for gold vs. Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – The U.S. improved to 4-0 and advanced to the gold medal game Tuesday against Brazil with a 75-59 victory over Canada on Monday.

Rising Tennessee senior Nicky Anosike played a crucial role in Team USA's victory as she had nine points with five rebounds, including a steal and lay-up that helped the U.S. team extend its lead to six after overcoming a nine-point first half deficit. Despite going 0-for-4 from the field, Alexis Hornbuckle contributed with two steals and three rebounds.

For the second night in a row, the United States watched its opponent jump out to an early lead as Canada built a nine point advantage in the first quarter, the largest deficit the U.S. has seen in this tournament, and ended the quarter in the lead – marking the first time that the United States ended a period with a deficit.

The U.S. took an 18-17 lead early in the second quarter before Canada jumped back out in front, 20-18. Angel McCoughtry tied the game at 20 with a field goal and put the U.S. ahead for good with a three-pointer with 6:56 left to go in the first half. McCoughtry followed with a crucial blocked shot, which was followed by a steal and lay-up by Anosike stretching the U.S. lead to six points.

A pair of three-pointers by Mel Thomas and McCoughtry near the three-minute mark in the second quarter helped to cushion the U.S. lead and by the end of the quarter the United States had built a 17 point advantage going into halftime.

"I just felt like I needed to help the team out because I felt that we got off to a slow start and I thought, ‘When I come in, I've gotta give energy to help this team,'" said McCoughtry, who added 17 first-half points off the bench. "The rest of the bench came in as well and just really helped. Really, it's just all about the team effort."

The United States proved how deep its bench as three players provided double-digit scoring totals. In addition to McCoughtry, Thomas and Jayne Appel also played a key factor in the team's victory over Canada.

"I think it's just all about the team," said Appel, who scored 12 in the contest. Everyone has to step up to the plate and you've gotta be ready when your number is called."

The United States prepares to face their biggest challenge of the tournament Tuesday as they take on host country Brazil, also 4-0, for the gold medal.

Not only is the United States the youngest team in the competition, nearly seven years younger than Brazil's squad on average, but, the U.S. expects Brazil to draw a large crowd in support of their team.

"It's exciting," said head coach Dawn Staley, on the possibility of winning the gold. "I think the committee put together a great basketball team to compete for a gold medal … and I think our team has played extremely well under these circumstances of being the youngest team here."

"I expect [Brazil] to play hard and use the crowd to get their momentum up," said McCoughtry. "But, we just have to stay focused and not let that get to us."

Staley, a three-time Olympian and veteran in international competition reflected on her previous experience when contemplating tomorrow's contest against Brazil.

"You can say it's a Tennessee-UConn matchup. You could say it's a Rutgers-UConn match-up," said Staley. "But there is nothing that compares to playing for a gold medal outside of your country and in somebody else's back yard."

"It's very important to all of us. We worked so hard to get here," said McCoughtry on the possibility of winning gold. "It's a humbling experience. We want to come out, play hard and give it all we've got. We really want that gold."

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