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Courtney Williams and America Win Opening WUG Game

While we were sitting around drinking beer and eating hot dogs, Team USA beat Italy to begin the World University Games Sunday morning in Gwangju, South Korea.

Photo from GoUSFBulls.com
Photo from GoUSFBulls.com

In case you are wondering, the World University Games are an international competition for college athletes who still have at least one year of athletic eligibility. The WUG are held every other year. The U.S. has participated in women's basketball 17 times and has medaled every time (nine of them gold).

USF's Courtney Williams and Alisia Jenkins both tried out for the U.S. team, along with 49 other players. Williams made the 12-woman roster along with Aerial Powers of Michigan State, Erica McCall of Stanford, Jordan Canada of UCLA, and Mercedes Russell of Tennessee.

Preliminary pool play began this weekend; tournament play begins Thursday. The U.S. is in Group B of the preliminary pools, where the U.S.A. and the Czech Republic are now 1-0, and Italy and China are now 0-1.

Facing Italy, Williams struggled in the opening game. In the first minute alone she had a pass stolen and a shot blocked. Throughout her 27 minutes of play, she did manage to get four rebounds, an assist and a steal. Unfortunately she failed to score a point in the game. The whole team had a slow start, finishing the first quarter down 21-20 having committed ten turnovers. Aerial Powers and Erica MCall took control of the game in the second quarter, overpowering the Italian forwards to make space for jumpers, draw fouls, and cause turnovers. After a 27-13 run, Team USA was up 47-34 with two minutes until half time. The second half was more of an even match, with Italy cutting the American lead to as little as six points, but the Italians could never overcome the hole they were put in during the second quarter. Powers and McCall each scored 22 points, making the final score USA 80, Italy 68.

Italy's star of the game was Debora Carangelo, who hit five threes and finished with 21 points. Italy had to depend on outside shooting because they do not have the size to match up with the Americans in the paint, but looking to set up a screen and shoot a three-pointer on every play was not a winning strategy in the end.

It is always good to see a USF Bull on the international stage, especially a fan favorite like Courtney Williams. It is good for her (and the Bulls) to get some competitive experience in the off season like this, and impressive that she made the team out of such strong competition. After seeing her so beaten up and slow-moving after the Louisville game, it is also good to see her running up and down the court again.

Team U.S.A. next faces China Monday at 5:30 PM Korean time, which is 4:30 AM east coast time. If you're up that early, it will be on ESPNU, ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.