University of Connecticut star Breanna Stewart and the United States national team survived a pair of scares in their Pan-American Games opener Thursday.
Stewart, after turning her right ankle 90 seconds into the game and sitting out briefly, had a double-double (26 points, 12 rebounds) and Team USA fought off three runs by Brazil to take a 75-69 win in Group A pool play in Toronto.
"I thought the first game was exactly what we needed," Stewart said. "Brazil gave us everything they had."
Fellow UConn senior All-American Moriah Jefferson added 21 points and three assists for Team USA.
Stewart appeared to be injured as she landed on the foot of Brazil defender Taina Paixao after missing a jump shot. The ugly ankle turn had her down on the court and play was stopped when Team USA regained possession. But the North Syracuse, New York, native -- who played through a left ankle injury during UConn's national championship game win over Notre Dame in April -- was out for only 14 seconds. She returned and scored 10 points in a 1:52 span to give Team USA a 20-11 lead.
"Bre was Bre, she was outstanding from every area," Team USA coach Lisa Bluder said.
It was 25-17 after one quarter. Eight straight points, including five by Jefferson, then doubled the Team USA lead to 16 but Brazil fought back to make it 39-31 at the break.
The Americans' lead was 10 when Brazil netted 12 unanswered points, capped by a Caria Martins 3-pointer, to move in front. But Team USA answered as Stewart and Jefferson scored nine points in an 11-2 run to end the third quarter, and the Americans got the first five points of the final quarter to make it 62-50.
"The entire game we felt like we were able to control the game," Stewart said. "They were making some difficult shots. We just rallied, rallied together, and we wanted to get a stop, a score and another stop and take it one possession at a time."
Brazil again came back and pulled within 71-67 with 1:56 left. Team USA then got a break when Notre Dame junior Taya Reimer appeared to get her shot off after the 24-second clock expired. There was no call and the ball fell through the net for a six-point lead. Two free throws by Jefferson with 33 seconds remaining put it away.
"I knew after the scrimmage they were going to be really physical," Jefferson said. "I think we withstood their runs well. We knocked in shots when we needed them and we got the win."
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough out of Maryland was the third USA player in double figures with 10 points.
The Americans continue Group A play Friday at 9 p.m. against the Dominican Republic (0-1).
"You never want to lose a lead like we did, but we went through some adversity and we didn't panic," Bluder said. "Everybody stayed calm. We knew we could battle back and I thought that was really good for our team."
Also Thursday, UConn sophomore guard Kia Nurse was one of seven players in double figures with 10 points as Team Canada opened Group B play with a 101-38 rout of Venezuela. Nurse also had three rebounds and five assists for the host country, which takes on Argentina (0-1) Friday at 6 p.m.
(Quotes courtesy of USA Basketball)