By Nathan Engel
SOFIA, Bulgaria – Going into the U.S. Women’s Basketball Team’s match against China on Sunday, head coach Laura Edwards knew it could be a trap game, so she took the necessary precautions.
Her pep talk paid off with a strong, confidence-building 109-24 win over an undersized and overwhelmed China.
“I told my team to remain focused and to approach it just like any other game,” Edwards said. “I expected them to play the game professionally, business-like, and not to take plays off. It shows respect for China as an opponent.”
Guard/forward Christine Smith scored 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting, center Lindsay Stergio chipped in 16 points and seven rebounds, guard Claire Tucker added 12 points and five steals, and centers Nukeitra Hayes and Kristin Feldman scored 10 apiece. Jen Decuir led the team with a team-high nine assists and four steals.
The biggest surprise of the game came from guard Alexa Justus, who had 20 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals.
“This was a big breakthrough for Justus,” Edwards said. “It was a great confidence-builder for her, and this game allowed her to showcase her outside shooting and passing skills.”
Every player came off the bench and received valuable playing time, which allowed Edwards to tinker with new things.
Numerous players agreed they were amazed with China’s outstanding sportsmanship and resiliency throughout the game despite the significant score gap.
“I was really impressed with the Chinese players’ respect after the game,” Zamica Gage said. “They seemed like they were happy to just have the opportunity to play against us.”
U.S. leads its pool with a 3-0 record and finishes out pool play against Belarus at 4 p.m. (9 a.m. Eastern Time) Monday at Universiata Hall.