USA U19 Women Battle Spain For 80-65 Victory, Berth In Gold Medal Game
The USA’s inside game proved to be too much for its opponent to handle as the 2015 USA Basketball Women’s U19 World Championship Team (6-0) outscored Spain (3-3) 66-24 in the paint en route to a 80-65 medal semifinal victory at the FIBA U19 World Championship on Saturday night in Chekhov, Russia.
In Sunday night’s (1:15 p.m. EDT) gold medal game, the U.S. will face host Russia (6-0), which remained perfect after downing Australia (5-1) 76-57 in the evening’s first semifinal game. The gold medal contest will be streamed live online on ESPN3. Australia and Spain will square off in Sunday’s bronze medal game (11 a.m. EDT).
“I was really proud of this team tonight,” said USA U19 and University of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley, who is a perfect 20-0 as a USA Basketball head coach. “We needed a game like this. It was a gut-check type of game that will prep us for what we’ll face tomorrow. I know the environment will be hostile, so we needed this kind of win. We had different players step up and we got great contributions off our bench. Our starters did a great job, and it forced us to come together as a cohesive group when we needed to.”
Napheesa Collier (Incarnate Word Academy/O’Fallon, Mo.) and A’ja Wilson (South Carolina/Hopkins, S.C.) each posted a double-double as four U.S. players scored in double digits. Collier shot 10-of-13 from the field and 4-of-5 from the line to finish with a game-high 24 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, and had two assists and two steals. Wilson tallied 20 points and hauled in a game-best 16 rebounds, while also dishing out three assists and getting three steals.
“Pheese (Napheesa Collier) is relentless,” added Staley. “She is competitive. She doesn’t want to lose and she leaves it all out there every time she steps on the floor.”
Also contributing double-digit scoring efforts were Azurá Stevens (Duke/Raleigh, N.C.), who had 11 points, six caroms and three blocked shots; and Mariya Moore (Louisville/Richmond, Calif.) finished the night with 10 points, seven boards and a team-best four assists.
While the American women scored first and never trailed, Spain would not let up and continued to fight through to the end.
“We had to be really focused, because playing a team three times in two weeks is really hard,” said Collier. “But, we knew our scout really well, so we were just trying to execute it well. It helped us a little bit because we kind of knew what they were going to do.”
Spain called for a time out early after the U.S. opened with a 10-2 run. The Europeans then hit a 3-pointer at 5:32 to close to 10-5. From there, the two sides swapped buckets and at 3:42 the USA led 16-9. With the help of two 3s, Spain outscored the USA 10-5 to narrow the score to 21-19 at the first break.
While three of the quarters were close scoring affairs, it was the second quarter, won by the U.S. 23-12, that helped put some distance between the teams.
Spain tied the score 15 seconds into the second quarter for the only tie of the game, when the USA reeled off 10 consecutive points. Spain again called for a time out at 7:06 to slow the U.S. down and hit another 3-pointer at 6:17 to bring the score to 31-24. However, the USA outscored Spain 11-0 over the ensuing minutes to take its largest lead of the first half, 42-24. Missed shots and turnovers hurt the U.S. over the final two minutes of the first half, allowing Spain to pull the score back to a 13-point deficit, 44-31, at halftime.
Collier was instrumental in the first half, scoring 19 points and hauling in eight boards in fewer than 17 minutes of play, while Wilson had eight points and 12 rebounds, also in less than 17 minutes.
“Pheese came out and was just unstoppable,” said Stevens. “That’s what she’s capable of doing. It’s really cool and fun playing with her. And then A’ja just had a steady game. She didn’t necessarily start out super on fire, but she kept giving energy and got 20 in the end, so that was awesome.”
While Spain continued to put up a strong fight in the second half, the Europeans never got closer than nine points in the third quarter, 48-39 at 7:28, and the USA won the fourth quarter 18-15 to punch its ticket to the gold medal game.
“As a team I think this game was very tough, because it’s always tough to play a three times in such a short amount of time,” said Wilson. “Sometimes we come in and think, ‘Oh, we already beat them. We’re going to blow them out,’ but they came out and played hard. They never gave up, and over the course of 40 minutes they kept coming and kept coming at us. We have to learn how to keep our guard up better.”
The USA outrebounded Spain 58-36, including 27-12 on the offensive glass and was able to convert those into 20 second-chance points. The Americans also passed out 15 assists on their 33 field goals.
Shooting 41.8 percent (33-79 FGs) from the field, the U.S. held Spain to 38.9 percent (28-72 FGs).
“It’s going to be really tough, but I’m actually really excited for it,” added Collier on playing Russia for the gold medal. “I can’t wait for tomorrow. To hopefully beat someone on their home court for a gold medal would be really exciting.”
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 other games today, Taiwan (2-4) defeated Egypt (0-6) 73-59, France (4-2) edged China (3-3) 67-61, South Korea (1-5) picked up its first victory after dispatching Argentina (0-6) 63-57, Belgium (5-1) took Canada (2-4) 70-64, Brazil (3-3) topped Mali (1-5) 60-49 and the Netherlands (4-2) eclipsed Serbia (3-3) 90-60.
Five-time defending gold medalists at the FIBA U19 World Championship, today’s win ups the USA’s overall record to 72-12 dating to the first U19 tournament in 1985. Even more impressive, in the past seven U19s, the USA has captured six gold medals and one bronze medal with a 60-4 record during that span, including this year’s 6-0 mark.
Including tonight’s victory over Spain and the three exhibition contests in Spain, Staley now owns a 20-0 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 63-4.