After struggling in the opening 20 minutes Saturday, the United States World University Games team turned to its All-Americans to take a lead against Australia.
But at the end it was the only USA player on the roster not from a BCS school to lift the Americans into the gold-medal game.
Central Michigan's Crystal Bradford converted her own rebound with 14.4 seconds left and Team USA survived to edge Australia 79-78 in semifinal action in Kazan, Russia.
"We're a little bit disappointed in ourselves giving up a 16-point lead," especially since we started so well in the second half," Team USA guard Bria Hartley out of UConn said. "But credit to Australia, they played really well and they made the right plays. But in the end we made the right plays. We got the box out and got the rebound on that last shot. A lot of times you seal games like that. We were able to finish tonight."
Team USA (5-0) will face host Russia (5-0) in Monday's gold-medal game. Russia advanced with a 69-51 win over Taiwan Saturday. Game time Monday is 1:30 p.m. EDT.
Baylor's Odyssey Sims led Team USA with 20 points. Hartley had 14 points and five assists while UConn's Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The Americans trailed by as many as nine in the first quarter and by 33-32 at halftime. But Sims netted a pair of hoops and five straight points by Oklahoma's Aaryn Ellenberg put Team USA up 41-37. After a basket by Australia's Marianna Tolo, Hartley hit two free throws and assisted on baskets by Sims and Mosqueda-Lewis to push the lead to nine. It was 62-49 after three quarter and a Sims hoop made it 71-54 with 7:07 to go.
A 10-0 run brought Australia within seven but Hartley's three-point play made it 74-64 with 4:50 left. But Australia then hit Team USA with a 14-2 run with Tolo's two free throws giving it a 78-76 lead with 1:08 remaining.
Bradford hit 1-of-2 from the line with 54.0 seconds to go to make it a one-point game and Team USA regained possession after a 24-second clock violation. Bradford got the ball inside and rebounded her own miss to score and put the Americans up one.
"I thought the first one was going to go in, so I didn't expect to get the rebound," Bradford said. "But it came off, and I grabbed the rebound. I knew I had to go up strong. I didn't even want to shoot free throws. And I went up, and I made it, and I was excited."
Tolo missed a shot to put Australia back in front but Team USA couldn't secure the rebound and the possession arrow went Australia's way. Tolo again got the ball in the lane but misfired and Sims rebounded and ran out the clock.
"I tell you what, that 14 seconds felt like forever," Team USA coach Sherri Coale said. "And then we did everything right. I thought we came up with the rebound, and they called a jump ball and we had to defend them for seven more (seconds).
"We had not been really good in defending their inbound plays. For a split second there, I thought about changing the way we were guarding on the inbound. But I felt like the most important thing for our kids at that point was to be sure and so we stuck with what we had been doing and got them to take a tough shot and came up with the rebound somehow. We've been given a gift."
Bradford finished with nine points.
Alice Kunek led Australia with 20 points while Tolo, who was in foul trouble much of the way, had 16.
Team USA led only once in the first half.
Australia scored the first two baskets en route to a 13-4 lead. It was 20-13 after one quarter. A free throw and rebound hoop by Nebraska's Jordan Hooper tied it and Mosqueda-Lewis gave the Americans their first lead with a free throw with 54.4 seconds left in the half. Kunek's basket gave Australia the edge at the break.
"After the first half we thought we had to come together," Hartley said. "Everyone had to get a pace, and I think we did a better job of boxing out in that third quarter. We got rebounds and we were able to push in transition. I thought Odyssey did a great job of getting to the basket."
Hartley finished 4-for-13 from the floor while Mosqueda-Lewis was 4-for-12.
Team USA and Russia have had two common opponents in their five games -- the Czech Republic and Sweden. Team USA defeated the Czechs 101-61 and Sweden 103-72. Russia topped the Czechs 74-66 and Sweden 74-68.
"We have to have better energy to start the game (Monday)," Coale said.
U-19 wins exhibitionKentucky incoming freshman Linnae Harper had 15 points as the U.S. U-19 national team topped Spain 78-49 Saturday at the 2013 Lanzarote International Invitational I the Canary Islands. UConn's Breanna Stewart had eight points, Moriah Jefferson four points and three assists, and Morgan Tuck two points.
The round-robin tournament concludes on Sunday with the Americans going against Canada (6 a.m. EDT). Team USA will then head to Lithuania for the FIBA U-19 world championships which start Thursday.