Incoming freshman earns MVP honors after leading her team to the title
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO August 11, 2014 – South Carolina freshman A’ja Wilson posted her second double-double of the tournament to spearhead USA Basketball’s 104-74 win over Canada to claim the FIBA Americas Championship gold medal Sunday night at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. With 25 points and 11 rebounds Sunday for head coach Dawn Staley’s squad Wilson capped a strong tournament, earning MVP honors behind her 19.0 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.
Sunday’s rematch with Canada began much the way the first meeting did with the Canadians competing well early in establishing a lead over the Americans. The U.S. took its first lead three minutes into the game on a bucket by Recee Caldwell to make it a 6-4 contest. The Americans could not pull away immediately, though, and Canada got with in two at 10-8 on Shaylisha Colley’s 3-pointer with 5:20 left in the first quarter. After Wilson was fouled rebounding her own missed shot, her free throw kicked off a 12-0 run that derailed Canada’s momentum.
Leading by 14 after the first quarter, 26-12, the Americans withstood an early surge by the Canadians, not allowing them to get closer than 11. Wilson netted eight of her 23 points during the four-minute run to keep Canada at bay. Team USA took a 50-32 lead into halftime, and it came out of the break with even more energy and efficiency.
Canada tried to break through early in the third quarter, but again it was Wilson that guided the U.S. to another run. Fouled on a defensive rebound, she hit a pair of free throws to put her team up 52-36, a lead that multiplied quickly behind a 19-5, five-minute spurt that put the Americans up 71-40 with three minutes left in the period.
Wilson’s 25 points, 15 of which came in the first half, led five Americans in double figures. Team USA shot 56.3 from the field, continuing to capitalize on high-percentage opportunities, including 62 points in the paint.
USA Basketball collected its seventh-straight gold medal in the FIBA Americans U18 Championship. This gold medal is the second for Staley as a head coach for USA Basketball as she also led a team to the 2007 Pan American Games title.