By Nate Engel
SOFIA, Bulgaria — The United States’ women basketball team carried over its momentum from its trouncing of Italy to Saturday’s game against Ukraine at Overgas Hall, winning by a comfortable margin of 32 points, 75-43.
Once again, head coach Laura Edwards was pleased to see her team break out on a commanding 8-0 run before Ukraine burned its first timeout less than 2 ½ minutes into the first quarter.
The U.S. stretched its lead to 13-0 before Ukraine finally scored with little more than four minutes left in the quarter.
“The start we had against Ukraine was similar to the previous game against Italy,” Edwards said. “We’ll definitely need to maintain this, especially through the medal rounds. However, there’s always room for improvement.”
After the U.S. allowed Ukraine to slightly narrow the gap through turnovers in transition and missed rebounding opportunities, the Americans kicked their defense into a higher gear by shutting down the paint on rebounds.
The squad also turned up the pressure on the Ukrainian ball handlers. With the fast tempo, Edwards and her team finished out the half on a strong note, going into the locker room up 40-21.
“Ukraine is definitely tougher and a more physical opponent than Italy,” center Nukeitra Hayes said. “But we were up for the challenge.”
Hayes collected a second double-double with a team-high 19 points and 14 rebounds.
In the second half, Ukraine was never able to rally as the U.S. consistently responded with strong runs. Point guard Jennifer Decuir contributed 11 of her 14 points after the half and dished four assists, while Lindsay Stergio and Christine Smith added 12 apiece.
The U.S. next plays China at 6 p.m. Sunday at Universiada Sports Hall.
At the post-game dinner Nukeitra Hayes reflected on the team’s first two games: “Our team has definitely come a long way since training camp. Some of us did not know each other coming into camp a few weeks ago. It has been amazing how we’ve come together in a short time span and to play well together in the Deaflympics so far. But there’s always room for improvement and we will get better each and every game.”