Spurred by the offensive output of Oregon rising seniors Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard, the United States women’s 3x3 basketball team beat Argentina 21-17 on Monday to win the Pan American Games gold medal.
Team USA, which also includes UConn rising sophomores Christyn Williams and Olivia Nelson-Ododa, went a perfect 7-0 to claim the Games’ inaugural 3x3 gold medal. Saturday’s trio of wins was followed by victories over Venezuela and the Dominican Republic on Sunday.
Monday morning, the United States faced Brazil in the No. 1 vs. No 4 semifinal. The team improved upon its 21-7 Saturday win over the Brazilians by taking the game with a 21-5 win. Ionescu had nine points to lead all scorers, going 4-of-5 from beyond the arc — those shots are worth two points apiece in 3x3. Nelson-Ododa added five points in a perfect shooting performance.
The gold medal game was a rematch of Team USA’s opening game against Argentina: a 21-15 win that was among the the team’s toughest of the tournament. But this one was even more hard-fought, as Argentina jumped out to a 3-0 lead before Hebard got the United States on the board.
Team USA didn’t take its first lead until there were just 3:33 minutes left on the clock and Williams converted a one-point basket. From then on, they didn’t allow Argentina to tie again, running up the score until Hebard scored the golden 21st point with eight seconds remaining.
Ionescu and Hebard scored seven points apiece, Williams added five and Nelson-Ododa scored two.
Despite their dominating performance in Peru, the United States women’s 3x3 team is far from guaranteed a spot at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Many FIBA-sanctioned 3x3 events take place during the WNBA season, which means most 3x3 teams from the United States are made up of less-experienced college players. Other teams, however, have the ability to practice together and compete in more FIBA events, thus, earning more points in the world rankings.
That said, the United States came in as the third-ranked team in the tournament and won gold, while the two teams ranked ahead of them (Uruguay and Brazil) ended up off the podium. If anything, this success is an encouraging sign for what should be a busy year for the federation.