The United States defense, confused and forlorn the first half, recovered after intermission and was responsible for a 19-4 rally that carried the Americans to an 83-61 gold medal victory over Romania tonight at the World University Games before 8,700 fans, the largest crowd ever to see a women's basketball game in this country.
"For a so-called B-team, winning a gold medal is pretty good," guard Lea Henry said.
The U.S. was led by Deborah Temple, who recorded game highs of 24 points and eight rebounds. Sheila Collins came off the bench in the second half to intercept several passes and make five of six shots.
The U.S. trailed, 42-36, at halftime, as Romania perplexed the Americans by running various pick-and-roll and back-door plays that resulted in layup after layup. The U.S. front-court players kept trying to switch off inside, only to find Romania's Maria Pall or Stefania Bosr cutting underneath the basket for a clear shot.
Coach Jill Hutchison made the proper adjustments before the second half, and the same Romanian passes became interceptions, then layups at the other end. For the second straight game, the U.S. got a strong offensive lift from a player who didn't step on the floor in the first half.
"We were allowing them to score every possession," Hutchison said. "And we knew to win, we had to cut that to one of three possessions. We had to jump into the passing lanes, make stronger switches and stop Pall from rolling to the basket."
Collins of Tennessee came in and the U.S scored six consecutive points for a 58-50 lead as the Americans moved from 50-48 with 13 minutes left to 69-52 with seven minutes to play.
"I was sitting way down at the end of the bench and I kept saying, 'Coach, put me in. Please put me in.' When I got in there I was going to shoot everything," Collins said, laughing. "When I injured my knee in November, the doctors told me I'd never play again. Winning the gold feels incredible."