Lady Vol Hoops Trio Claims Gold At World University Games

GWANGJU, South Korea — The University of Tennessee’s Holly Warlick, Mercedes Russell and Diamond DeShields are once again gold medalists after their USA World University Games women’s basketball team topped Canada, 82-63, on Monday in the title game at Yeomju Gymnasium.
The United States took a three-point lead into the fourth quarter (48-45) and then nearly doubled up Canada (5-1) in the final 10 minutes, scoring 34 points in the period to clinch the victory.
American teams are now 107-15 all-time at the World University Games with 10 gold medals to their credit, plus six silver medals. The USA has won gold medals in the past six WUGs in which it has competed (2001, 2005, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015).
“It’s a great honor,” said USA head coach Joe McKeown (Northwestern). “It’s a great honor to represent the USA and to be able to coach this group. To see them gel together in a short period of time and play as well as they did together over here was really fortunate for all of us.”
The USA forced 20 turnovers and scored 14 points off those miscues and also owned the edge in the paint, scoring more than half of its final total, 44 points, from inside.
Russell (Springfield, Ore.), the USA’s center, contributed nine points to that effort and stuffed the stat sheet with seven rebounds, three steals, two assists and a block. She finished four of eight from the field and one of two from the free throw line vs. Canada.
The 6-foot-6 rising redshirt sophomore started all six games in the tourney, leading the team at 9.2 rebounds per game and ranking third in scoring at 13.0 per contest. She shot 53.7 percent from the field as the USA went 6-0 in Korea and she collected her third international gold medal. She also was on the 2012 FIBA U18 World Championships squad and the 2011 FIBA Americas Cup U16 Championships club.
For Warlick, who served as USA assistant coach, it marked her fourth international gold medal but first as a coach. Her previous golds came at the 1980 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, the 1979 FIBA Championship and the 1979 William R. Jones Cup. The Lady Vol head coach was set to compete in the 1980 Olympics as a point guard before the U.S. boycott of the Games for political reasons.
DeShields saw action in only one game out of caution for a previous injury, but she picked up her fifth career gold medal. She struck gold previously at the 2012 FIBA 3×3 U18 World Championships, the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championships, the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championships and the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championships. She and Russell played together on that 2012 U17 squad.
The game vs. Canada was not always as lopsided as the final score. Russell opened the game’s scoring by putting back an offensive rebound, but Canada scored six unanswered to grab the lead for the first time. USA co-captain Erica McCall (Stanford/Bakersfield, Calif.) did a bulk of the heavy lifting in the first quarter, scoring six of her nine points in the first 7:30. The United States shot only 30.0 percent in the first stanza, but forcing four Canadian turnovers helped the red, white and blue take a 13-11 lead after one period of play.
The USA appeared to gain some control through the second quarter. Chanise Jenkins (DePaul/Chicago, Ill.), Sydney Wiese (Oregon State/Phoenix, Ariz.) and Aerial Powers (Michigan State/Detroit, Mich.) all buried 3-pointers in the second period, which helped turn the two-point edge into an eight-point lead at the midway point. Powers scored the last five points of the half to put the United States on top, 31-23.
Canada came out of the locker room with a renewed energy to start the third quarter. It was crashing the offensive glass, and eventually, Canada was able to tie the game at 41 points apiece with a shade under four minutes to go. On the next possession, Powers took the ball to the hole and scored, while getting fouled. She would convert the free throw that gave the USA a 44-41 lead with 13:43 left in the game, and the United States would never trail again.
“We’re 12 individuals who have come together for a couple of weeks to accomplish something so special,” said Russell. “We got to know each other really well, made great connections and came out with a gold medal.”

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