The United States Pan American Games team won't have much time to rest on its laurels, or rest at all.
UConn senior All-American Breanna Stewart had her second double-double in three games Saturday with 24 points and 12 rebounds as Team USA advanced to the semifinals as the top seed in Group A by beating Puerto Rico 93-77 in Toronto.
Saturday's game ended about 11 p.m. (EDT). And Team USA (3-0) will be right back at it at 1:30 p.m. Sunday when it faces Cuba (2-1) in the first semifinal game. Group B top seed Canada (3-0) will take on Brazil on the other semifinal. The bronze and gold-medal games are Monday.
"It's a quick turnaround, so you have to be prepared," Team USA point guard and UConn senior All-American Moriah Jefferson said. "Cuba played a great game against Canada tonight and lost by three, so they're going to come out and play really hard."
Sunday's contest will be the first time Team USA's played an afternoon game in Toronto. Its three Group A games started at 9 p.m.
"We will not have a shoot-around," Team USA and Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. "We'll still have a team meeting in the village, but it will have to be a mental preparation rather than a physical preparation."
South Carolina's Alaina Coates also had a double-double with 23 points and 13 rebounds for Team USA Saturday. Jefferson finished with 14 points and six assists.
Team USA never trailed but couldn't put away Puerto Rico until the final minutes.
The Americans led by as many as 11 in the second quarter but saw that advantage cut to 46-41 at halftime. The lead was up to nine in the third quarter but down to 67-64 at period's end.
Puerto Rico lost leading scorer and former Texas guard Carla Cortijo, who had 24 points, with a leg injury with 8:42 left. Soon after, Team USA finally iced it with a 16-1 run.
"(Cortijo) came out and knocked every shot in, and I take my hat off to her. I just hope she is OK with her injury," Jefferson said. "Once that happened, they weren't making as many shots. We stepped up the defense a little bit and then we got a couple of shots to fall. Alaina and Steph (Mavunga) were battling for rebounds and that helped out a lot.
"I think we battled. I think we grinded it out. It was not a pretty game, but in the end we got the win.
Ahead 77-72, baskets by Maryland's Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Coates and a steal and layup by Stewart pushed the lead to double figures. A drive by Washington's Kelsey Plum made it 85-72 with 3:00 left. After a Puerto Rico free throw, Stewart nailed a 3-pointer and Jefferson made it 90-73. A free throw by Stewart and a rebound hoop by Mavunga made it a 20-point game.
"There was a little confusion during the game, but in the fourth quarter we finally were able to settle down and play calm like we do," Coates said. "Puerto Rico wanted to speed us up, but we were able to keep it at the tempo we wanted it to be."
Also Saturday, UConn sophomore guard Kia Nurse had seven points and four rebounds as Canada stayed perfect by holding off Cuba 71-68. Cuba erased a 12-point fourth quarter deficit and had a chance to tie with 0:15 left but Leidys Oquendo missed a free throw. Nurse assisted on Tamara Tatham's basket with 0:04 to go to account for the final score.
Collier starts strong for U-19s
UConn freshman forward Napheesa Collier had 13 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, and three steals Saturday as Team USA defeated Spain 72-57 in its opening game of Group B play at the FIBA U-19 world championships in Chekhov, Russia.
"I was nervous," Collier said. "I don't know what everybody else was feeling, but I don't really don't know why we came out slow. I think it took a little time, but we picked it up a little bit."
South Carolina sophomore forward A'ja Wilson led the Americans with 18 points and added 10 rebounds. UConn Class of 2016 commit Crystal Dangerfield chipped in eight points, three assists, and a pair of steals with USA coach Dawn Staley noting, "Crystal Dangerfield was great in being able to push the tempo and get our defense going in the right direction."
Team USA led 36-24 at halftime. Spain pulled within 43-37 midway through the third quarter but Wilson had six points in a 16-3 run to end the period and the Americans netted the first 11 points of the fourth quarter to make it 70-40 with 7:46 to go.
"We had a lot of steals," Collier said. "Mariya Moore had about five in a row. So, that helps. When we were pressuring them, they were turning the ball over so we were able to get out in transition. And our rebounds, we rebounded really well tonight."
Spain guard and Duke University-bound Angela Salvadores, who scored 40 points and was the tournament's Most Outstanding Player in a losing effort against Team USA in the gold-medal game of the 2014 FIBA U-17 world championships, had just nine points and committed seven turnovers Saturday.
Team USA continues Group B pool play Sunday at 1:15 p.m. against China (1-0), which defeated Egypt 73-60 Saturday. The Americans and Egypt play Tuesday.
(Quotes courtesy of USA Basketball)