NAPLES, Italy (MSU Athletics/WTVA) - Down by eight in the fourth quarter, USA Team rallied with a 17-1 run to end the game to beat China, 87-79, earning a spot in the semifinals of the World University Games.
China came back from an 11-point deficit at halftime to take a 68-65 lead going into the final frame. The U.S. struggled to hit a basket early on but finally got the offense going while also holding China scoreless in the final minutes to storm back for the victory.
"With six minutes to go, I called a timeout because we couldn't score and weren't defending," said head coach Vic Schaefer. "In the huddle, we talked about toughness. We were going to find out about ourselves. I don't think anyone could have expected what we got from that young group, going on a 17-1 run to end the game. I was proud of how we locked them down defensively and started executing and being aggressive on offense."
USA Team will take on Japan for a spot in the finals Monday at 10:30 a.m. CT. That game will be streamed live online through FISU TV (LINK).
"We played Japan in our friendly," said Schaefer. "They were up four with 1:08 to go, and we found a way to score the last five points. I'm sure they have a little revenge on their mind. It should be a great game. We are going to have to play really well. I thought Japan was the best team we had played until tonight. Now, we have to play them again. They will know a little bit more about us, and we know a little bit more about them. I'm sure our kids are going to be really excited to play tomorrow."
Freshman Rickea Jackson posted another great performance, recording her first double-double with 26 points and 13 rebounds. She scored nine of the team's final 15 points, including a huge and-one to tie the game at 79-79. Junior Yemiyah Morris also finished with a double-double, tallying 10 points and 13 rebounds, while helping lockdown the paint during the final stretch.
Freshmen Aliyah Matharu and Jayla Hemingway were big off the bench for the U.S., scoring 12 points and 10 points, respectively.
"Yemiyah was special tonight," said Schaefer. "I thought Myah Taylor was really good with that group. She helped bring us back. Jazzmun Holmes had a big shot down the stretch. I thought Jayla played extremely well. She had a big steal at the top of the key that got us a layup. The charges that Myah took down the stretch were huge, fouling out their best player. Jessika Carter took two charges tonight. I'm just really impressed by the competitive spirit in this group. They are really special."
Despite China’s size, the Red, White and Blue dominated the paint once again this game, outscoring China 62-24 in the paint and holding a 57-32 edge on the glass. The U.S. also finished with 25 offensive rebounds to get second-chance opportunities.
Going up against its best opponent yet, USA Team went back and forth with China in the first quarter. Seven different players scored in the period with Jackson pacing the team with nine points. China found success at the charity stripe, going 12-of-14 from the line to keep things close. The U.S. shot 50 percent from the floor in the period to take a 28-26 lead after one quarter.
The Red, White and Blue played strong defense in the second frame, holding China to 4-of-17 shooting. For the half, China shot just 30 percent from the floor. Jackson finished with 16 for the half to help USA Team take a 52-41 lead into halftime.
China erased the halftime deficit behind a flurry of 3-pointers, shooting 6-of-9 from beyond the arc in the third quarter. For the game, China knocked down 12 treys compared to only two for the U.S.