Former Valparaiso men's basketball star Ryan Broekhoff continued his play at the highest levels internationally for his native Australia over the past couple weeks, helping the Emerging Boomers to the silver medal at the 27th World University Games in Kazan, Russia, Australia's first-ever medal in men's basketball at the competition.
Broekhoff and the Emerging Boomers started pool play on July 7 against the Czech Republic, with Broekhoff contributing eight points, three assists and two steals in an 85-57 victory. The next day, in a closer contest against Sweden, Broekhoff was one of two Aussies to score in double figures, going for 11 points and six rebounds in a 70-53 win.
After a day off, Australia faced fellow unbeaten Canada and suffered its first defeat, falling by a 92-83 final. Broekhoff struggled in the loss to the Canadians, going just 1-of-9 from the floor, but did pull down six rebounds and hand out three assists.
The task was tall for Broekhoff and the Emerging Boomers if they wanted to advance to the medal quarterfinals, as just over 24 hours after losing to Canada, they would have to defeat a United States squad which owned a gaudy 141-9 all-time record in World Unviersity Games play. Australia hung with U.S.A. through three quarters, entering the fourth stanza trailing 64-59.
Then, after a quick basket to open the quarter by the Aussies, Broekhoff came up with his biggest shots of the tournament to that point, giving the Emerging Boomers the lead for good with triples on back-to-back possessions, the latter making it a 67-65 Australia lead. Late in the quarter, with a four-point lead and 18 seconds to play, Broekhoff calmly nailed two free throws, and then grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed free throw to secure the 93-84 victory for Australia. Broekhoff closed the game with a double-double (10 points, game-high 12 rebounds).
Australia cruised over the United Arab Emirates in the final game of pool play, 131-43, as Broekhoff earned a day of rest following the hard-fought win over the United States a mere 16 hours earlier. The win secured the second spot in the pool for Australia at 4-1 and advanced the Emerging Boomers to the medal quarterfinals, where they would open play against 5-0 Lithuania.
As they did against the United States, Australia would have to fight from behind against Lithuania, trailing by nine points after the first quarter and still down seven points at 47-40 early in the fourth period. But a 15-2 Australia run turned things around, and right in the middle of it was Broekhoff, again canning back-to-back 3-pointers to turn a four-point deficit into a two-point lead. Lithuania would tie the game late, but the Emerging Boomers scored the final five points for a 60-55 win and a spot in the semifinals. For the first time in the tournament, Broekhoff paced the team in scoring, going 5-of-9 from the floor for 14 points while also nabbing four boards.
An even bigger comeback propelled the Aussies into the gold medal game, as they trailed undefeated Serbia 24-6 after one period of semifinal play before rallying for a 65-62 victory. Broekhoff chipped in five points, four rebounds and two assists in the winning effort. Unfortunately, the Emerging Boomers' run at gold came up one win short, as host Russia won the gold medal game 81-74 despite an eight-point, six-rebound effort from Broekhoff.
Broekhoff ended the tournament averaging 8.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game for Australia, the latter mark ranking second on the team.