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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, July 20, 2015

UConn's Nurse steals the show as Canada wins Pan Am title

Much like she did during her freshman season at UConn, Kia Nurse has displayed a tendency to defer to her older teammates with the Canadian national team.

However, with a chance to help Canada win its first gold medal in women's basketball at the Pan Am Games, Nurse stepped to the forefront and put on a performance for the ages.

Nurse finished with 33 points, two shy of her combined point total in the four games of the tournament, to go with six rebounds, three assists, two steals and a blocked shot as Canada defeated the United States 81-73 in the gold-medal game.

Nurse's brilliance deprived her UConn teammates Moriah Jefferson and Breanna Stewart of leading the U.S. to its first Pan Am women's basketball title since 2007.

Stewart led the U.S. with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Jefferson had 14 points, two rebounds and two assists despite leaving the game for a short time in the first half after rolling her ankle and then being knocked out of a game as she had a head on head collision with Nurse as both players dove on the floor for a loose ball midway through the fourth quarter.  Kentucky's Linnae Harper, arguably the best player in the U.S. in the last two games, had 14 points and Notre Dame's Taya Reimer finished with 10 points.

Coming into the game Nurse's best scoring game came when she had 12 in the opener against Venezuela. She had that in the second quarter alone as Canada rallied from an 11-point deficit to take a two-point lead on a 3-pointer by Nurse with 46 seconds left in the second quarter. Reimer hit two free throws with 11 seconds left to enable to U.S. to go into the locker room at halftime tied with Canada.

Going one step further, Nurse played in 11 competitions with Canada's senior national team in 2013 and 2014 and in eight of them she scored fewer than 33 points.

Obviously, Kia Nurse played really well," Stewart said. "She just came out and was doing everything, whether it was 3s, driving to the basket and getting and-ones, that kind of stuff.  We had them for a second, and then they let the crowd and momentum get behind them and never really looked back."
Stewart and Jefferson are the only U.S. players to average more than 30 minutes per game in the tournament. Stewart led the team in scoring, averaging 18.6 points per game and was second in rebounding (8.8 per game) and was tied for the team lead with nine steals. Jefferson was the second-leading scorer (12.2 points per game) while handing out a team-high 19 assists.

Something tells me that Jefferson will use Nurse's incredible effort as a point of reference during the season if she feels like Nurse isn't looking for her shot enough.

Nurse will have a chance to further her reputation with the national team when Canada hosts the Olympic qualifying FIBA Americas tournament next month.

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