Inside Strength Propels USA U19 Women Past China 88-62 To Clinch No. 1 Seed Out Of Group B
Utilizing a strong inside presence that produced 44 points in the paint and 22 points off of 25 offensive rebounds, the 2015 USA U19 World Championship Team (2-0) earned an 88-62 win over China (0-2) on Sunday night at the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship in Chekhov, Russia.
While the Americans have one preliminary round game remaining -- a July 21 contest (1:15 p.m. EDT on YouTube.com/FIBA) against Egypt (0-2) -- tonight’s victory ensured the U.S. of the No. 1 seed out of preliminary round Group B. No matter the outcome against Egypt, the USA will face the No. 4-seeded team from Group A, which will be the loser of the July 21 game between Argentina (0-2) and Taiwan (0-2), in the July 22 round of 16.
“One of the biggest strengths of our team is our length,” said USA U19 and University of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley. “We have six post players on this team. Unfortunately Kristine (Anigwe) was a little under the weather today, otherwise we would have shown them all six of our post players. And they’re all different.
“A’ja (Wilson) is able to score down there in the paint at will, Azurá (Stevens) stretches the floor out, Lauren (Cox) is a really good passer who is able to see the floor and make great post-to-post passes. Then you have Chatrice (White), who’s able to knock down the 3 or go inside. So, we have a lot of versatility in our post. And of course you can’t leave Shakayla (Thomas) out. She can play inside, she can play outside. She’s got the speed of a guard, yet she plays in the post.”
Led by 6-foot-3 forward A’ja Wilson (South Carolina/Hopkins, S.C.), who tallied a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds in 17 minutes, the USA was bolstered by 17 points from 6-foot-1 guard/forward Napheesa Collier (Incarnate Word Academy/O’Fallon, Mo.), 16 points from 6-foot-5 Azurá Stevens (Duke/Raleigh, N.C.) and 11 points and nine boards from 5-foot-11 forward Shakayla Thomas (Florida State/Sylacauga, Ala.).
“I think it’s really hard for teams to play against, because for one, we’re so much bigger and we’re stronger,” said Duke’s Stevens. “So, that’s really hard to work around, especially when there are two taller players. We’re able to work the high-low really well, which is really difficult for other teams to defend.”
In contrast to its opening contest against Spain, both teams sprinted out of the starting gate. Following seven lead changes and one tied score, China was back in front, 11-10, less than three minutes into the game.
However, that was the final lead of the night for the Asian squad. Wilson drove to the basket at 6:49, giving the red, white and blue the lead for good, 12-11.
After blocking a shot and coming up with the ball, Wilson converted on a pass from Stevens. Stevens followed that up with a 3-pointer at 5:21 as the U.S. extended its lead to 17-11.
With 4:52 left in the first quarter China scored again, but the USA closed out the period on a 12-4 run for a 29-17 lead after the first 10 minutes of play.
In the opening 10 minutes, the USA already owned a 14-4 scoring advantage in the paint and led 5-0 on second-chance points.
Thanks to three 3-pointers, China kept pace with the USA’s scoring in the second quarter’s opening minutes and with 5:48 to go before halftime, the USA’s lead remained at 12 points, 38-26.
That’s when the Americans went back to their inside game. Behind six points from Wilson and four from Stevens, the U.S. scored 12 consecutive points to take a commanding 50-29 advantage with 1:38 left on the first-half clock.
China scored another 3-pointer, which was countered by five points on the opposite end, and by the time the halftime buzzer sounded the USA’s lead was 55-29.
The U.S. had a slight let-up coming out of the locker room, during which time China hit four 3-pointers in a 14-3 run, to close the gap to 58-43. However, the United States regrouped and responded to close out the quarter by outscoring China 18-4 and leaving little doubt as to the game’s outcome.
“China is a team that likes to shoot 3s, and they got going shooting those 3s,” said Staley. “But, over a 40-minute period we did a great job of countering any run that they had.”
In the end, the USA outrebounded China by a lopsided 60-25, including 25-3 on the offensive glass, and closed the contest outscoring China 44-16 in the paint and 22-0 on second chances.
“They all bring a really big presence,” said Mariya Moore (Louisville/Richmond, Calif.) regarding her team’s post players. “I think that other teams focus on our inside, and even though they focus on it, we still get enough points inside.”
The U.S. capitalized to score 24 points on China’s 17 turnovers, while giving up just eight points on its 16 miscues.
The U.S. shot 44.4 percent (36-81 FGs) from the field, including 46.7 percent (7-15 3pt FGs) from 3-point range, while limiting China to 37.9 percent (22-58 FGs) from the field overall, but allowing the Chinese squad to hit 47.8 percent (11-23 3pt FGs) from afar.
“Egypt gave China a really hard-fought battle, but just came up short,” stated Staley on her team’s final preliminary round opponent. “They played a lot of zone, so we should anticipate them playing us a little bit of a zone, packing it in, and maybe forcing us to shoot from the outside. We have a practice tomorrow, and we’ll have to try to get in a lot of zone offense. I think they’ll try to make us shoot from the outside and try to limit the opportunities that our posts get in the paint. I’m looking forward to the day off, getting another practice under our belt and I’m looking forward to advancing to the next round.”
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.
Kristine Anigwe (Desert Vista H.S./Phoenix, Ariz.) did not play due to illness.
In today’s other Group B contest, Spain (1-1) defeated Egypt 87-64. In Group A today, host Russia (2-0) defeated Argentina (0-2) 89-43 and Netherlands (2-0) downed Taiwan (0-2) 80-74. Group C saw France (1-1) edge out Canada (1-1) 58-54 and Belgium (2-0) defeat Mali (0-2) 60-41; while in Group D, Australia (2-0) beat Brazil (1-1) 62-48 and Serbia (1-1) handed South Korea (0-2) a 74-66 loss.
Following preliminary play, teams will be seeded, and all 16 teams will advance to the knockout stage. The round of 16 will be contested on July 22, quarterfinals are slated for July 24, semifinals will be played on July 25 and the finals are scheduled for July 26.
Including tonight’s victory over China and the three exhibition contests in Spain, Staley now owns a 16-0 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 59-4.
2015 FIBA U19 World Championship
The FIBA U19 Worlds features 16 teams with athletes 19 years old or younger (born on or after Jan. 1, 1996).
First held in 1985 and known as the FIBA Junior World Championship through 2001, the U19 World Championship features the world’s top players who are 19 years old or younger. Held every four years through 2005, FIBA now holds U19 World Championships every two years.
Including tonight’s win against China, USA women’s teams are 68-12 in the U19/Junior World Championships, capturing a fifth-consecutive gold in 2013 with a 9-0 record. In all, the USA own a record six gold medals and one bronze medal and have stood on the podium in each of the past seven FIBA U19 World Championships.
Notable players to represent the U.S. include: Angela Aycock (1993); Alana Beard (2001); Essence Carson (2005); Tamika Catchings (1997); Crystal Langhorne (2005); Erlana Larkins (2005); Jantel Lavender (2007); Lisa Leslie (1989); Rebecca Lobo (1993); Maya Moore (2007); Nnemkadi Ogwumike (2009); Vickie Orr (1985); Courtney Paris (2005); Cappie Pondexter (2001); Katie Smith (1993); Dawn Staley (1989); Breanna Stewart (2011 and 2013); and Diana Taurasi (2001).