Belgrade, Serbia Kansas University senior forward Danielle McCray is returning from Serbia with a gold medal in hand.
“This is something I’ve been working towards my entire life. It’s a huge accomplishment,” an emotional McCray said after helping the United States to a convincing 83-64 victory over Russia on Saturday in the finals of the World University Games.
“It’s something I’ve never done before. I can’t explain how cool it is. It’s amazing,” McCray added.
McCray, a 5-foot-11 senior-to-be from Olathe, contributed six points with three assists and three rebounds while battling some foul problems.
She finished as the second-leading scorer for the (7-0) U.S. team at 12.0 points a game.
McCray shot 56.7 percent from the field and 81.3 from the foul line, while also collecting 3.7 rebounds per game.
“It’s been great,” said McCray, who Saturday was in the starting lineup for the fifth time in seven games. “The hard work has paid off. From the two-a-days, waking up early in the morning, coming back again in the evening, doing the little things that we had to do feels great.”
UConn’s Tina Charles exploded for 28 points off 11-of-16 shooting and grabbed 18 rebounds in 21 minutes. She helped the Americans to a 52-32 rebounding advantage. The U.S. scored 22 second-chance points to Russia’s four.
Ohio State’s Jantel Lavender added 14 points. Stanford’s Kayla Pedersen contributed 11 points and nine rebounds.
“I just wanted to go out and play the way I know how to play,” Charles said. "I treated this like it was a national championship game or a Big East Conference championship game. I know everybody worked hard, everybody wanted to win, and that's what was always on my mind.”
The U.S., which led 39-31 at halftime, outscored Russia, 9-0, to open the third quarter.
“These are some of the best college players in the country, and they showed it tonight,” said USA and Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne. “That Russian team (6-1) has been playing together for years. For these young ladies to come together in a couple of weeks, be so responsive to what we asked them to do, to give everything they have for their country, that was awesome.”
Australia (5-2) defeated Czech Republic (4-3) 88-77 to win the bronze medal.
“We faced every country. We saw different things from every country. We battled. It was physical and we overcame all that adversity,” McCray said.