MOSCOW, RUSSIA-- Duke University Head Coach Joanne P. McCallie and rising junior Abby Waner guided the 2007 USA Basketball U21 World Championship Team (8-0) over Australia (6-2), 96-73, to earn the gold medal on Sunday evening at the FIBA U21 World Championship in Moscow, Russia. France (7-1) nearly squandered a 22-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, but held off a late Russian (5-3) comeback attempt for a 67-61 victory and the bronze medal.
Crystal Langhorne (Maryland / Willingboro, N.J.) had a double-double of 23 points and 14 rebounds to lead five U.S. players in double digit scoring. Waner, who is from Highlands Ranch, Colo., netted five points, a game-high five steals and two rebounds in 15 minutes of play.
"It was a great game for our team defensively and rebounding-wise," said USA U21 National Team coach McCallie. "I really felt that we wanted to play Australia again. We didn’t feel great about our first game against them. This time I felt we pressured the ball much more so and disrupted them much more and took advantage of opportunities. It really was a total team effort."
"You never get tired of winning," said Langhorne. "Two years ago we won also (the 2005 FIBA U19 World Championship) and it’s exciting. It brings a great feeling for us to represent our country and win another gold medal."
This age group (players born on or after Jan. 1, 1986) closes out its FIBA age-based competition with four gold medals and an undefeated mark of 26-0 in official FIBA and FIBA Americas tournaments after capturing the 2004 FIBA Americas U18 Championship (5-0), 2005 FIBA U19 World Championship (8-0) and 2006 FIBA Americas U20 Championship (5-0). Additionally, they won gold at the 2005 International Sports Invitational (4-0), earned a 3-0 slate in exhibition play against France this year and split a pair of games against Hungary prior to the ‘05 U19 Worlds.
The U.S. jetted out on a 15-3 opening run and by the first quarter break the squad, which never trailed in the game, was up 32-21. The United States pounded away inside in the first half, but when Australia’s posts collapsed on the USA’s bread and butter, they kicked it outside. That fueled the USA’s perimeter game, which produced eight 3-pointers in the first half (8-18 3pt FGs) as the U.S. took a 15-point, 55-40 lead into the locker room.
The third quarter saw the Americans pull further away and with 10 minutes to play the lead stood at 75-56 and it seemed the game was in the bag.
However, Australia gave it one final try. As the Americans lagged on defense Australia reeled off 11 points in a little over three minutes to close to within eight points at 6:51.
McCallie called a time out to regroup and remind her squad what they had come for. It worked as Abby Waner (Duke / Highlands Ranch, Colo.) got a steal that led to an Essence Carson (Rutgers / Paterson, N.J.) basket at 6:06, sparking a 10-0 run that included steals from Jolene Anderson (Wisconsin / Port Wing, Wis.) and Langhorne and the U.S. was back in command 85-67. Australia never again had a chance as the Americans closed the game strong for the gold medal victory.
"We just kept our composure, we went inside, things that got us the lead in the first place. We remained calm and just played," said Candice Wiggins (Stanford / San Diego, Calif.), who scored 14 points in the win, on pushing back Australia’s late surge.
In addition to Langhorne’s 23 points and 14 rebounds, Anderson, DeWanna Bonner (Auburn / Fairfield, Ala.) and Wiggins had 14 each and Carson chipped in 12 points.
For the eighth time in as many days the United States ruled the boards with a 52-31 rebounding advantage.
Jenna O’Hea led Australia with 23 points.
France’s Sandrine Gruda, who was 1-of-8 today in the bronze medal game against Russia, earned the tournament’s MVP trophy.
Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton(Purdue / Naperville, Ill.) injured her left knee in the USA’s semifinal game against Russia and did not play in the gold medal game.
McCallie has been assisted by collegiate head coaches Sam Dixon of Furman University (S.C.), an assistant to McCallie last summer with the 2006 USA U20 National Team, and Arizona State University’s Charli Turner Thorne.
Prior to arriving in Russia, the USA spent a week training in France and completed a three-game sweep against the French U21 World Championship Team. On June 18 the USA won in Monte Carlo, Monaco, to a tune of 82-59, on June 19 in Antibes the score was 81-68 and on June 21 the series concluded in La Garde with the USA on top 71-57.