July 18, 2015
TORONTO ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬” South Carolina center Alaina Coates had a double-double at halftime, and USA Basketball needed all of her 23 points and 13 rebounds in the game to get past Puerto Rico 93-76 Saturday night at Ryerson Athletic Centre in the 2015 Pan Am Games. The Americans took a 46-41 lead into halftime and had to hold off a third-quarter charge from the Puerto Ricans to advance to the semifinals as the Group A winner.
Coates was active on the glass early, reeling in an offensive rebound then finding Moriah Jefferson for a 3-pointer that made it a 4-0 lead for the U.S. Following her perfect shooting night against the Dominican Republic on Friday, the Gamecocks’ center hit her first three field goal attempts on Saturday as well. Still, Puerto Rico kept the Americans within reach, rallying back from an early eight-point deficit to trail by just one at 24-23 at the end of the first quarter.
The Americans opened the second quarter with a 5-0 run that included a Coates putback, but Puerto Rico cut its deficit to three, 36-33, with 4:58 left in the half. Coates hit a pair of free throws to push the lead to two possessions, and the advantage grew to eight before Puerto Rico cut it to five, 46-41, at the break.
Coates and the U.S. got off to a slow start in the third quarter, but the Puerto Ricans could not capitalize right away. Jefferson’s 3 made it a 49-41 game with 8:30 left in the period. Carla Cortijo drew a foul and hit a pair of free throws then hit a jumper to pull her team within four with just under six minutes to play. Two minutes later she again hit a bucket to draw within four at 54-50. Breanna Stewart delivered a three-point play to stop the momentum, and Coates came off the bench to spark a rally. She picked up an assist on a kickout for a Kelsey Plum 3-pointer then snagged a steal on the other end. Fouled battling for an offensive rebound, Coates hit 1-of-2 from the stripe and added a blocked shot to set up a pair of free throw from Jefferson that put the U.S. on top 62-54 with 1:53 to go in the period.
The Americans took just a three-point lead into the fourth quarter, though, and Puerto Rico got within one at 68-67. Coates again made the difference, converting a feed from Taya Reimer in the high post. She then played tough defense on the other end, and her teammates found her again on the low block to make it a 72-67 game with 8:33 to play. Sandra Garcia looked to stop the run, but the Americans extended their lead to 75-69 at the free throw line just a minute later. The United States kept the pressure on, wearing down Puerto Rico to cruise to the victory.
Coates grabbed eight of her 13 rebounds on the offensive end and finished the night shooting 10-of-15 from the floor. Stewart’s extended minutes at the end of the game helped her lead all scorers with 25 points, and her 12 rebounds were just shy of Coates’ game high.
The U.S. advances to the semifinal round, taking on Cuba on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. The game will air live on ESPN3.