Aug. 18, 2011
SHENZHEN, China — Notre Dame fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters (Chicago, Ill./Fenwick) came off the bench to score a game-high 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting to help propel the United States to a dominating 96-30 win over Finland in the quarterfinals of the 2011 World University Games on Thursday evening at the Shenzhen Luohu Gymnasium in Shenzhen, China.
Peters’ performance marked the third time in as many outings that a Fighting Irish player earned game-high scoring honors for Team USA, with Peters and junior guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) each collecting 14 points in Monday’s win over Slovakia, and Diggins registering 13 points in Tuesday’s victory over Great Britain, with both games coming in preliminary round action.
The United States (4-0) now moves on to the World University Games semifinals, where it will take on another unbeaten squad, Australia, at 8:30 p.m. Friday (8:30 a.m. ET in South Bend) at the Universiade Main Gym in Shenzhen. Taiwan (4-0) and Sweden (3-1) will do battle in Friday’s other tournament semifinal, with the gold/bronze medal games set for Sunday night.
With Peters helping to shoulder the scoring load (along with grabbing five rebounds and blocking two shots), Diggins played the role of distributor in Thursday’s quarterfinal win over Finland, dishing out a game-high seven assists (without a turnover) and notching a game-best three steals to go along with two points. Senior guard Natalie Novosel (Lexington, Ky./Lexington Catholic) started alongside Diggins in the American backcourt for the fourth time in as many tournament games, finishing with four points and six rebounds while tying Diggins for game-high steal honors (3).
Elena Delle Donne matched Peters with 17 points for the United States, while Nnemkadi Ogwumike added 12 points. Jacki Gemelos and Chiney Ogwumike also cracked double figures with 10 points apiece for the Americans, who opened the game on a 21-0 run and closed the night with a 17-0 surge.
As a team, the U.S. put together a strong effort at both ends of the court, shooting an even 50 percent from the field (41-of-82) while delivering 23 assists on their 41 baskets. On defense, the Stars & Stripes held Finland to a .167 field goal percentage (10-of-60), including 5-of-31 (.161) from the three-point line, more than doubled up the Finns on the glass (61-30) and forced the Scandanavian side into 29 turnovers (18 coming on American steals).
Finland’s 30 points tied for the third-fewest points allowed by the United States in World University Games competition, topped only by South Africa’s 22 points in 2005 (that American team was led by former Notre Dame point guard Megan Duffy) and Hong Kong’s 23 points in 1983.
“Our effort was good, we defended really well,” said Bill Fennelly, United States head coach (as well as the skipper at Iowa State University and a former assistant at Notre Dame). “We finished around the basket, and we made shots. Odyssey (Sims) was resting a sore knee, so we had Shekinna Stricklen and Jacki Gemelos at the point, and I thought they did a good job of running our team. We played a pretty complete game from start to finish. But we turned the ball over 18 times, and our post players turned the ball over 13 times. We were 8-of-16 at the free throw line — you’re nit-picking a little bit, but as we head into the semifinals, those little things mean you either play for the bronze medal or the gold medal. We are going to have to clean some of those things up.”
“I thought we came out really well and hit them hard early,” Peters said. “From there, we ran through a lot of our stuff, got good shots and rebounded. We did all of the things we needed to do. I thought we started out extremely well, probably our best start of the tournament. We came out strong and kept up our intensity throughout. We also started out the third quarter really well, which is something we haven’t done very well.
“In the second half, we were focused on running our plays and being a little bit crisper, not turning the ball over,” she added. “We had a lot of turnovers in the first half, so we were trying to cut those down.”
Delle Donne hit back-to-back threes to open the game and followed up with a jumper at 8:42 for the contest’s first eight points. By the time the game was less than five minutes old, Finland had yet to score as the red, white and blue owned a 21-0 advantage at 5:28 in the first quarter. During that span, the U.S. players shot a red-hot 8-of-11 from the field, and two of their misses were followed up immediately with put-backs.
By the time Finland got on the board at 4:02, it was clear the Europeans had no answer for the American women, and the game was shaping up to quickly get out of hand.
Outscoring the Finns, 11-8 for the remainder of the quarter, by the first break the U.S. was well in command, 32-10, marking the only double-digit scoring quarter in the game by the Finnish team.
Nnemkadi Ogwumike strung together her own 8-0 run in the opening minutes of the second quarter, and by halftime, the U.S. offensive onslaught left the score at 53-17. The rebounding margin was a whopping 31-11 in favor of the red, white and blue.
Showing no let-up in the second half, the U.S. won the third quarter 20-7 and the fourth quarter 23-6. Finland’s largest scoring run was a five-point stretch in the middle of the final period, marking its last points of the game, to make it 79-30 with 7:18 still to play.
Hanna Vapamaa scored six points to lead Finland.
The United States now turns its attention to its toughest opponent to date in the semifinals, as Australia’s roster currently features four players from its full national team. Australia advanced to Friday’s date with the Americans with a 79-44 win over Canada in another quarterfinal contest on Thursday. The U.S. and Australia have only faced each other once before at the World University Games, with the Stars & Stripes taking an 81-66 victory in the 2009 tournament semifinals in Belgrade, Serbia.
The World University Games are a multi-sport competition organized every other year by the International University Sports Federation (FISU). The U.S. women’s basketball team is comprised of U.S. citizens who are currently enrolled in college and have remaining eligibility.
USA Basketball women’s teams have participated in 15 prior World University Games and collected a record seven gold medals, six silvers and one bronze medal. Since 1973, the first year the USA women competed in the WUGs, and including this year’s results to date, the United States has compiled a 93-15 (.861) overall record. In 2009, the USA posted a 7-0 slate en route to the gold medal.
Additional quotes, photos and other information on the USA Basketball World University Games Team can be found at www.usabasketball.com.
For more information on the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women’s basketball Twitter pages (@ndwbbsid or @notredamewbb) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the sidebar on the women’s basketball page at UND.com.
— ND —