The USA Basketball Women’s World University Games team, of which Cal women’s basketball player Courtney Range was a member, defeated Canada early Monday morning in South Korea to bring home a gold medal.
The Americans won handily, 82-63, to make it a six-game undefeated run in the tournament. Range, who plays at the stacked forward position, struggled for playing time in the final game, as she has for much of the tournament. She played only two minutes in the final game and 39 minutes in the United States’ six games, with a high of 15 minutes in the team’s 92-54 win over the Czech Republic. In the tournament, Team USA proved its status as the world’s top home of great collegiate women’s basketball players, winning its games by an average of 21.8 points per game.
“It’s a great honor to represent the USA and to be able to coach this group,” said head coach Joe McKeown from Northwestern to USA Basketball. “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 World University Games, which hosts sports ranging from basketball to archery, is a biennial competition featuring several of the world’s best athletes at the college level. The United States has been the most successful country since it started competing in women’s basketball at the World University Games in 1973. The team has competed in 18 tournaments since then and has taken home 10 of those gold medals.
In its journey to winning that 10th gold medal, the American team was led by Stanford’s Erica McCall, Michigan State’s Aerial Powers and Tennessee’s Mercedes Russell — the team’s three leading scorers. Powers had an especially impressive game against Canada, scoring 27 and grabbing nine rebounds.
Range, meanwhile, didn’t get enough playing time to make much of an impact. Although she played in every game, she had the lowest number of minutes of all the players on her team to do so. She also had only 10 field goal attempts in the whole tournament. Despite this, Range can look at the World University Games as a valuable experience for two reasons. For one, she’s now a gold medalist and had a chance to represent her country for the very first time.
It is likely that her biggest takeaway from the tournament, however, will be the opportunity she had to play with and against some of the sport’s best players who are still in college. Playing against and especially practicing with these players is sure to help Range’s growth as a player more than just about anything else she could have done this summer in her preparation for the 2015-16 season.
Range’s preparation heading into next season will be especially important, as her role will get a lot bigger after the departure of the Bears’ biggest stars, Reshanda Gray and Brittany Boyd, to the WNBA. As a sophomore in the 2014-15 season, Range averaged 8.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, and those numbers will likely go up as her usage increases in the coming season.
Now that she will return to Cal as a gold medalist who has played against some of the world’s best college players, Range will take on her expanded role better prepared and with added confidence.