Graves wins gold as Team USA crushes France, 61-28

Knoxville, TN - January 20, 2013: forward Bashaara Graves #12 of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers during the game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Tennessee Lady Volunteers at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Wade Rackley/Tennessee Athletics

KLAIPEDA, Lithuania (release) -- Bashaara Graves is golden again. The rising Tennessee sophomore and her USA U19 team claimed their fifth-straight title in that age group with a 61-28 win over France on Sunday in the FIBA World Championship for Women at Klaipeda Arena.

Graves, a 6-foot-2 power forward from Clarksville, Tenn. (Clarksville H.S.), previously won gold with USA Basketball at the 2009 FIBA Americas U16 Championship for Women, the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship for Women and the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Women.

Earlier this summer, Graves’ Lady Vol teammate, Ariel Massengale, also won her fourth international gold medal, helping the USA World University Games team to victory in Kazan, Russia.

Graves contributed nine points and eight rebounds in the contest vs. France, hitting two of six shots from the field and five of six from the free throw line. For the nine-game tournament, the 2013 SEC Freshman of the Year started all nine games, averaging 8.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals and assists. She shot a team-leading .592 from the field (29-49) and hit free throws at a 75 percent clip (18-24).

The UT standout said she never takes winning for granted.

“It feels great (to win),” Graves said. “(Every time) it always feels like the first time…just being out there with my teammates and seeing how happy everyone is. It’s a celebration.”

As a veteran member of this team, though, there was a difference in her role from teams she has played on in the past.

“I’m one of the oldest ones here and one who has the most experience, so I was just trying to be a leader to the young ones. I’m starting this time, so I was just trying to get the gold any way I can.”

The USA, which captured the U19 gold for the sixth time in its last seven trips to the World Championship for Women, beat France for the second time in the tourney to secure the title. The Americans had struggled mightily to top the French just four days ago, pulling out a 69-63 triumph in their final second-round game.

“Obviously we had to grind it out on the offensive end,” USA head coach Katie Meier said. “At halftime we talked about our defense. They had only scored 20 points and that was huge for us. So, we just said that when push comes to shove, you win championships with your defense, so go out there an­­d lock down and stay together as a team. That was just an amazing performance.”

Amazing, indeed, as the Americans led 27-20 before clamping down on defense and allowing the French to tally only eight second-half points. USA essentially won the game in the third stanza with a 20-6 advantage, but a 14-2 fourth period was the icing on the proverbial cake.

UConn’s Breanna Stewart, named the tournament’s MVP, led the USA charge with 16 points and nine rebounds. She was the only player on either team scoring in double figures. Graves tied for second-most points and rebounds for the red, white and blue.

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