Two Lady Vols key in Pan Am gold

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - The USA Women's Pan American Games Team outscored host Brazil 30-13 in the game's final quarter to record a 79-66 win and capture the Pan American Games gold medal. The victory kept the U.S. team's slate a perfect 5-0 and earned the Americans the gold medal, the United States' first gold medal in Pan American Games competition since 1987.

Nicky Anosike pumped in 10 points on 5-of-10 field goals with seven rebounds. She added a team-high four assists while recording two blocks and a steal. Lady Vol teammate Alexis Hornbuckle, who tied with a team-high nine rebounds, including four on the offensive glass, added five points. She registered three assists and a team-high two steals.

Two Lady Vols combined for 16 rebounds to help lead the United States (5-0) over Brazil (4-1).

Both are rising seniors for Tennessee and both have now added a gold medal in international play to the 2007 NCAA national title they won in April.

"This has just been my year," Anosike said. "We won the NCAA with my college team and then now this; it's just been a great year for me."

Tennessee had to come from behind to beat North Carolina in the semifinal at the Final Four. That experience was beneficial for Anosike.

"I guess I'm experienced with being down, I know how to get us back and keep my poise and I just tried to help everyone else along with that," Anosike said.

The United States was led by Matee Ajavon, who scored 27 points. The second-leading scorer was Angel McCoughtry with 17 points.

The United States faced its biggest challenge of the tournament in host country Brazil. Not only was the United States the youngest team in the competition, nearly seven years younger than Brazil's squad on average, but the United States had to overcome a partisan home crowd.

Playing in front of a loud partisan Brazil crowd that was clad in yellow and green and numbering over 13,000, the 2007 squad did what three teams that came before it were unable to do - win the gold. Since claiming gold in 1987, the USA had earned silver once (2003) and bronze twice (1991 and 1999) (note-the women's basketball competition was canceled for 1995 Pan American Games).

"This feels terrific. We came down here as the youngest team in the tournament, but they also came out here with the biggest hearts," remarked USA head coach Dawn Staley. "I thought we had a shot of winning it because they all bought into the USA Basketball system, which is a no star system. Everybody played their roles to the fullest and that's why we won. If it was any other way I think we could of come up short today.

"The committee put together a great team, full of players who are use to playing in this type of environment. In every single game here someone else has stepped up. Tonight it was Matee's night. (Matee Ajavon scored 27 points with 24 coming in the second half.) We made adjustments as a coaching staff to alleviate some of the defensive assignments she had so she could do a little bit more on the offensive end and I think that was a great strategy by our coaching staff. This is a wonderful feeling, it's a tremendous feeling."

For the game's first 30 minutes neither team was able to shake the other.

The United States trailed 19-18 after one quarter, and still lagged behind by a single point at intermission, trailing Brazil 34-33. Brazil closed the third quarter with a 13-5 offensive spurt and with 10 minutes left to play in the gold medal contest, the U.S. contingent was looking at a scoreboard that read Brazil 53, USA 49.

But the U.S. again started a quarter strongly.

Behind five points from Angel McCoughtry and four more from Ajavon, the Americans regained the lead with a 12-1 scoring run that left the score 63-56 with 6:03 to play.

Brazil made one last run and when veteran star Janeth Arcain made a rushed deep two-point shot as the shot clock expired, Brazil was back within three, 65-62, with 3:27 left.

Tasha Humphrey reciprocated on the other end by draining a 3-pointer as the shot clock sounded, and after Ajavon got out on a fastbreak for a layup, the threat was over and the Americas were up 70-62 with 2:01 to go.

Brazil kept plugging away and closed within five, 70-65, but Ajavon made Brazil pay when her defender went for the steal but came away empty handed, Ajavon drove the lane for two to seal the win.

"Once we got a four point lead, even though they came back, I think it kind of gave us a little bit of momentum and then in the fourth quarter Matee completely took over the game," said Candice Wiggins, who collected her second gold medal of the summer and was a member of the USA U21 World Championship Team that won gold. "When we needed her she hit big shots and she was just hot today. Throughout this entire tournament everybody has stepped up on different days and today was Mat's day and she really delivered."

Avajon's 27 point effort, which came on 11-of-18 shooting from the field, ranks tied for fifth for single game scoring by a USA player in the Pan Ams. Her 11 made field goals ties the USA record for most made field goals in a game.

The U.S. offensive efforts was also aided by McCoughtry who added 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting, while also contributing nine rebounds. Humphrey finished with 11 points, making 3-of-5 3-point tries.

Brazil, after shooting 14-of-27 in the first half, finished the gold medal contest making just 41.1 percent of its shots.

Jancinto Micaela led Brazil's silver medal effort with 21 points.

Other members of the gold medal USA Pan American Games Team were: Jayne Appel; Marissa Coleman; Emily Fox; Chardé Houston; Erlana Larkins; and Mel Thomas.

"Any time you can beat someone in their own country that says a lot about the personality of the team and what we wanted to get done," Anosike said. "We didn't let anything stop us. There were times things weren't going out way, but we knew what we wanted to achieve and that was the gold."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories