NAPLES, Italy (MSU Athletics/WTVA) - With a combined 61 points and 29 rebounds, the duo of Jessika Carter and Rickea Jackson was unstoppable as the U.S. defeated Chinese Taipei, 93-85, to remain perfect in pool play at the World University Games.
"Chinese Taipei is so good and well coached," said head coach Vic Schaefer. "Their toughness really stood out to me yesterday when I was scouting them. They have a competitive spirit and are physical. To see our kids compete in battle today, we grew up a little bit. We showed maturity. I'm extremely proud of our kids. Jessika was so good today. Rickea was really special offensively. They couldn't guard her. Jazzmun Holmes ran our team to perfection just like she has her whole career. I'm proud of our kids, but it's just one game. We have a chance to go win our pool tomorrow against a really good Slovakia team."
Jackson led all scorers with 33 points on 16-of-25 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and four steals. Carter dominated the paint all game long, finishing with 28 points and 22 rebounds.
The two players scored 30 of USA Team's 47 points in the second half and were a big reason why the Red, White and Blue held a 66-40 edge in the paint for the game.
The U.S. knew that one of the keys to winning would be crashing the boards, and it succeeded in that area, out-rebounding Chinese Taipei 50-29 on the glass. While the Red, White and Blue shot 51 percent from the field for the game, it was the second-chance opportunities from an incredible 25 offensive rebounds that made the difference in the outcome.
Holmes and Xaria Wiggins recoded 10 points each to round out the double-digit scorers for the squad. Holmes also had eight assists and was crucial in the offense's success during the second half, while Wiggins just missed a double-double with nine rebounds.
Chinese Taipei gained the early edge in the first quarter, using an 8-0 run to take a 22-14 lead at the break.
Carter got things started on the offensive end of the floor for the Red, White and Blue in the second period. The sophomore center went 6-for-7 from the floor and dropped 14 points, helping USA cut it to a one-point deficit at halftime, 47-46. Jackson added nine points in the frame. For the half, the U.S. found success in the paint with 38-28 edge.
The second half belonged to the Red, White and Blue. A change in defense helped slow Chinese Taipei’s offense, and Jackson got hot to get USA Team’s offense rolling. The freshman dropped 22 points in the second half and was a blazing 11-of-15 from the field. On the other end of the floor, Chinese Taipei shot just 35 percent from the field after shooting 56 percent in the first half.
With the U.S. leading 70-67 at the end of the third quarter, Jackson hit the first five shots of the final period for USA Team, erasing any hopes of a comeback for Chinese Taipei. Carter sealed the victory with back-to-back baskets late in the fourth.
“We made the decision at halftime to stop pressing,” said Schaefer. “We were giving up too many layups, and we wanted to turn them into a jump-shooting team. I think we did a good job. They made a few, but I felt like that was what we needed to do. I thought that really helped us in the second half. I just think that the fourth quarter is always Mississippi State’s. We are in better shape, and we are tougher. We are just mentally tougher.”
Next up, the U.S. will take the hardwood against Slovakia at 10:30 a.m. CT on July 5 for a chance to clinch Pool C. After that, the squad will move on to the bracket stages to play three more games in order to determine its placing. Those contests will be on July 7-10.