USA Heads Into FIBA U19 World Championship Round of 16 Undefeated After Running Past Egypt 104-41
Overcoming a sluggish first quarter, the 2015 USA Basketball U19 women (3-0) outscored Egypt (0-3) 38-9 in the second quarter and sprinted to a 104-41 victory to close preliminary round play undefeated at the FIBA U19 World Championship on Tuesday night in Chekhov, Russia.
Every member of the U.S. team scored, including 15 points apiece from Mariya Moore (Louisville/Richmond, Calif.) and Shakayla Thomas (Florida State/Sylacauga, Ala.), 14 points from A’ja Wilson (South Carolina/Hopkins, S.C.), and 10 apiece from Lauren Cox (Flower Mound H.S./Flower Mound, Texas) and Azurá Stevens (Duke/Raleigh, N.C.).
The U.S. outrebounded Egypt 69-37 behind 17 caroms from Cox, while Thomas and Stevens secured eight rebounds each and Wilson grabbed seven.
The USA must win each of its next four games in the knockout phase of the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship in order to defend its gold medal, starting with a July 22 (10:30 a.m. EDT on YouTube.com/FIBA) contest against Argentina (0-3), the No. 4 seed out of Group A. Winners of the July 22 games will advance to the July 24 medal quarterfinals, while the losers will play out for 9th-16th places. Semifinals will be contested on July 25 and the finals are scheduled for July 26.
“We got off to a really slow start,” said USA U19 and University of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley. “We missed a lot of easy baskets in the beginning. It kind of took the energy away from what we were trying to execute. But when we went to our bench, the people who came in -- Shakayla (Thomas), Crystal Dangerfield, Lauren Cox, Chatrice White and Ali Patberg -- they all energized us and gave us the lift that we needed. They sped up the game by pressing them, as well as making layups so we could get back in our press and speed the game up. The tempo shifted in our favor when we went to our bench.”
After a slow start in which Egypt’s Nadine Selaawi, an incoming freshman at Western Kentucky University, scored five of her team’s first seven points, the U.S. trailed 7-6 at 5:19.
A Thomas steal and layup at 4:55 gave the Americans a lead they would never again relinquish. However, the U.S. was unable to convert on its next few attempts and by the time Cox scored her first points of the night at 2:00, the team’s shooting percentage was a frigid 21.7 percent (5-23 FGs). When the first-quarter buzzer sounded, the USA held a five-point, 14-9 lead and had made just 25.9 percent (7-27 FGs) from the field.
Staley knew her team would be able to turn the tide and told them as much during the quarter break.
“She told us that we’re getting the shots, it’s just that kind of night where they’re not falling,” said incoming University of Notre Dame freshman Ali Patberg (Columbus North H.S./Columbus, Ind.), who finished with eight points and five assists. “She told us to continue to get those shots -- they were good, quality shots, they just weren’t falling. She said to keep shooting and they’ll start falling. She also said to keep moving the ball. She’s told us that if we move the ball, we’ll get open shots.”
A re-energized U.S. squad returned to the court and in fewer than four minutes the Americans reeled off 12-straight points, including five apiece from Kristine Anigwe (Desert Vista H.S./Phoenix, Ariz.) and Wilson.
“We got off to a slow start,” said Cox, who was three rebounds short of the USA U19 record of 20 set by Nnemkadi Ogwumike in 2009. “Our transition and our defense really helped. We got a couple steals from our ball pressure. We were running with it and started to get more comfortable with each other. We started playing together really well.”
Following a pair Egyptian buckets, which sandwiched a Wilson put-back, the U.S. further upped its intensity on both ends over the final five minutes of the first half.
With the score showing 28-13, the red, white and blue closed the half on a 24-6 run, including a Gabbi Ortiz (Oklahoma/Racine, Wis.), put-back at the buzzer, to take a commanding 52-18 halftime lead.
“Egypt likes to play zone,” said Ortiz, who scored six points and dished out a game-high six of the USA’s 24 assists. “They sat in a zone, which we knew they would. We scouted them for that, so we knew we had to get the ball in the paint, get inside touches and move it back out to make sure we were playing as a team and being patient. So, they did a good job of trying to pack it in, but we really improved on how we moved the ball. That got us some easy and open shots.”
Egypt nearly kept pace with the U.S. in the third period, but scored its final points of the game at the line with 34.4 seconds left in the quarter, which ended with the United States up 80-41.
The depth of the United States’ bench proved to be too much as Egypt was unable to connect on a single basket -- from the field or at the line -- in the fourth quarter, while the U.S. put up 24 points to bring the game to its final.
“I got pretty good position on them,” said Cox, whose team held a 4-inch average height advantage over Egypt (6-foot-0 to 5-foot-10). “I was able to work my way behind them and seal them off, so I could get on the back side of the goal when people were shooting on ball side, and then get the rebounds that came off the back.”
In addition to the overall rebounding average, which saw the U.S. grab 32 on the offensive glass, the USA outscored Egypt 26-8 off of turnovers, a whopping 63-20 in the paint, 29-2 off of second chances and 57-10 off the bench.
The U.S. squad tied a USA U19 single-game record for blocked shots with nine, a mark previously reached against Brazil at the 1989 competition, and the Americans came up one rebound short of the USA’s U19 single-game record for boards.
In the final three quarters, the USA hit 54.7 percent (35-64 FGs) of its shots and finished the night with a 46.2 (42-91 FGs) shooting percentage, while limiting Egypt to 25.4 percent (16-63 FGs) from the field.
Assisting Staley and the U19 squad are collegiate head coaches Kim Barnes Arico of the University of Michigan and Jeff Walz of the University of Louisville.
In today’s other Group B contest, China (2-1) edged Spain (1-2) 66-63 to take the No. 2 spot in the group. In Group A today, host Russia (3-0) ran away in the second half and defeated the Netherlands (2-1) 71-47 and Taiwan (1-2) picked up its first win after clipping Argentina (0-3) 60-56. Group C saw Belgium (3-0) utilize a fourth-quarter surge to surpass Canada (1-2) 67-52 to take the group’s No. 1 spot, and France (2-1) dispatched Mali (0-3) 69-50; while in Group D, Australia (3-0) took the top spot with a 87-38 win over South Korea (0-3) and Serbia (2-1) clinched the second seed with a 80-75 overtime defeat over Brazil (1-2).
“With Argentina, it’s a team against which we’re going to have to use our length,” said Staley. “We’re going to have to get the ball inside. We have to make sure that we’re not giving them open 3s and we’re not allowing them to run up and down in transition. For us, we’re going to have to be really calculating with what we want, and I think our players are up for the challenge.”
Including tonight’s victory over Egypt and the three exhibition contests in Spain, Staley now owns a 17-0 record as a USA Basketball head coach, which includes one game as the acting head coach for the 2006 USA National Team and five each at the 2007 Pan American Games and 2014 FIBA Americas U16 Championship. Overall, including her USA National Team assistant coaching stints, Staley’s USA Basketball coaching record stands at an impressive 60-4.