McCray Takes Gold At 2009 Women's World University Games

July 11, 2009

BELGRADE, Serbia –

Box Score in PDF Format

Kansas senior All-American Danielle McCray battled foul trouble in the first half, but finished the game with six points and three assists in helping propel the 2009 USA Women’s World University Games Team (7-0) past a determined Russia (6-1) 83-64 and on to an undefeated gold medal at the 2009 World University Games on Saturday afternoon in Belgrade, Serbia.

“It’s been great,” said McCray, who was in the starting line-up for the fifth time during the tourney. “The hard work has paid off. From the two-a-days, waking up early in the morning, coming back again in the evening, doing the little things that we had to do feels great. This is something I’ve been working towards my entire life. It’s a huge accomplishment.”

McCray concluded the World University Games as the second leading scorer for the U.S., with 12.0 points per game. She shot 56.7 percent from the field and 81.3 from the foul line, while also collecting 3.7 rebounds per game.

“I’m really proud of this team,” said USA and Arizona State University head coach Charli Turner Thorne. “They stayed tough, kept working hard. These are some of the best college players in the country, and they showed it tonight. That Russian team has been playing together for years. I coached against them two years ago (at the 2007 FIBA U21 World Championship). For these young ladies to come together in a couple of weeks, be so responsive to what we asked them to do as coaches, to give everything they have for their country, that was awesome.”

A monster 28-point, 18-rebound performance from Tina Charles (Connecticut / Jamaica, N.Y.) set the tone as Team USA dominated the glass, outrebounding Russia 52-32 and scoring 22 second-chance points to Russia’s four. Jantel Lavender (Ohio State / Cleveland, Ohio) added 14 points, and Kayla Pedersen (Stanford / Fountain Hills, Ariz.) contributed 11 points and nine rebounds.

“I just wanted to go out and play the way I know how to play,” Charles said. “I treated this like it was a national championship game or a Big East Conference championship game. I know everybody worked hard, everybody wanted to win, and that’s what was always on my mind.”

Less than a minute into the game Charles had put a quick four points up on the board, but Russia answered with a 3-pointer at 8:41 and the score was 4-3 in the USA’s favor early on. From there, the USA answered each Russian score until the 2:33 mark, when four straight points from Russia’s Elena Danilochkina gave Russia its first lead, 17-16. Russia went on to score five more points to the USA’s four to close the period up 22-20. It was the first time the Americans had trailed after the first quarter in all seven games of the tournament.

Russia strung together a 6-0 run to start the second quarter and pushed its lead to the largest of the game, 28-20, at the 8:18 mark. A Jeanette Pohlen (Stanford / Brea, Calif.) 3-pointer at 7:15, followed by a steal and fast-beak bucket from Pohlen at the 6:55 mark, however, launched a 19-3 run that recaptured the U.S. lead, and the games momentum. The streak included points from six U.S. players, and by halftime, the USA had erased the deficit and built an eight-point, 39-31 lead.

The momentum carried through to the second half, which the USA opened with a 9-0 run that forced a Russian timeout at 8:06 after Pedersen converted on a three-point play and the U.S. lead had grown to 48-31. Despite fighting to the end, Russia never again threatened the USA, which outscored its opponent 25-16 in the third period and 19-17 in the fourth quarter to capture the 83-64 win.

“The biggest thing was that we stuck together the whole game,” Pohlen said. “We were only up by about I think eight at halftime. We talked about sticking to them on defense, digging deep and giving everything we’ve got. It’s our last game, the last time we get to play together. It’s been a great trip. It’s exciting to come home with the gold.”

Also today, Australia (5-2) defeated Czech Republic (4-3) 88-77 to take home the bronze medal.

USA Basketball women’s teams have participated in 15 World University Games tournaments and collected a record seven golds, six silvers and one bronze medal. Since 1973, the first year the USA women competed in the WUGs, the United States has compiled an 89-15 record.

In the July 10 classification finals, Poland (5-2) captured 5th place with a 79-74 overtime win over Great Britain (3-4); Taiwan (4-3) needed two overtimes to top Slovakia (2-5) 79-76 and earn 7th place; Japan (4-3) beat China (3-4) 91-86 to finish 9th; Serbia (3-4) placed 11th with a 81-67 win over Hungary (3-4); Turkey (3-4) earned 13th place after downing France (3-4) 69-58; and Canada (2-5) was the 15th place finisher after a 83-65 victory against Mozambique (0-7).

Turner Thorne is assisted on the USA sideline by Suzy Merchant of Michigan State University and Julie Rousseau of Pepperdine University.