Battle of UConn Hoops Stars Goes To Canada in Pan Am Final

TORONTO -- There were many flags and banners hanging inside Ryerson Athletic Centre for Monday night's Pan Am women's gold-medal basketball game between Canada and the United States, but one stood out in particular as time wound down.

Along the lowest seating level between the two team benches in the arena better known in these parts as Maple Leaf Gardens, there was the red-and-white Canadian flag. Close by was the red-white-and-blue American flag. And smack dab in between the two was a dark-blue University of Connecticut banner with the Husky logo.

It hung there for good reason because UConn provided three of the most important players in the game. Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson, who have won a combined six NCAA championships at Connecticut (and counting), had a combined total of 31 points and 13 rebounds for Team USA.

Unfortunately for the U.S., there was another UConn player dominating the game for Canada. Kia Nurse, who started 36 games for UConn as a freshman last season, had 33 points -- more than her two Connecticut teammates combined -- and six rebounds to lead her country back from an early deficit to win the game 81-73 before a sellout crowd of screaming Canadians.

"She was unbelievable," Stewart said of Nurse. "That's what she does, she attacks. And whether it was the 3-point shots or driving for the basket, that's what she does, and that's what she does at UConn. She put Canada on her back tonight and led them to this win.

"From start to finish, she was scoring, and we didn't have an answer for her."

Thanks to the early play of Stewart and Jefferson, the U.S. led 23-13 at one point before Nurse ignited Canada.

"I was just hoping to get the momentum switched," Nurse said. "The U.S. had it for a while, so I just kind of concentrated on what I do well, and my teammates helped me do that."

The Canadian team was ecstatic as it received its gold medals in front of its home fans. The U.S. team was a bit more glum in receiving silver medals. And somewhere, Huskies coach Geno Auriemma was probably wondering which medal should go to him and UConn.

So how does it feel watching a college teammate dominate when you're both playing for gold for your respective countries?

"It's a bittersweet feeling," Stewart said. "You want her to do well and that kind of stuff, but not when she's playing against you."

The victory was Canada's first gold in basketball, men or women, at the Pan Am Games. The U.S., meanwhile, fell short again; the Americans have won only one Pan Am Games championship in women's basketball in the past quarter-century (2007).

In addition to the gold medal, Nurse acknowledged she left the court with something else: bragging rights when she returns to UConn next season.

"Stewart played well, she got her points, and Mo played great, as well," Nurse said. "But it was a matter of us buckling down and getting it done on the defensive end and finishing up on the offense."

At least Stewart and Jefferson will play with Nurse and possibly win another NCAA championship next year. It might have been an even tougher loss for U.S. forward Taya Reimer, who couldn't have been happy seeing a UConn player beat her team. After all, she plays for Notre Dame.