USA Women Begin Defense Of Their FIBA U19 Championship With 72-57 Win Over Spain
USA forwards Napheesa Collier (Incarnate Word Academy/O’Fallon, Mo.) and A’ja Wilson (South Carolina/Hopkins, S.C.) each recorded a double-double to help power the 2015 USA U19 World Championship Team (1-0) to a 72-57 victory over Spain (0-1) to open preliminary play at the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship on Saturday night in Chekhov, Russia.
Collier finished the opener with 13 points, a game-high 14 rebounds, five assists and three steals; and Wilson scored a game-best 18 points to go with 10 caroms. The USA also got 15 points and seven boards from Shakayla Thomas (Florida State/Sylacauga, Ala.).
While most of the team statistics were relatively close, the USA outscored Spain 44-24 in the paint and outrebounded Spain 58-40.
However, two impressive nods to the USA’s team play and defensive effort were the 21 assists on 26 made field goals and the USA’s 22 steals from 28 Spanish turnovers.
In today’s other Group B contest, China (1-0) defeated Egypt (0-1) 73-60.
The USA will continue Group B preliminary round play against China on July 19 (1:15 p.m. EDT on YouTube.com/FIBA) and close the initial round of games against Egypt on July 21 (1:15 pm. EDT on YouTube.com/FIBA).
“Any time you start a tournament, you want to play so well,” said USA U19 and University of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley. “We came out with a sluggish start, but that's why you have assembled 12 of the best young players in the country. When we're not getting the execution that we need on both sides of the ball, we’ll just substitute and try to find the right combination to get us going.
“We did a really good job when we inserted Shakayla (Thomas) in. Even Destiny (Slocum), getting off the plane, flying over half of the day and being able to give us some valuable minutes. Crystal Dangerfield was great in being able to push the tempo and get our defense going in the right direction.”
“We did a good job pressuring the ball on our press and executing things off of that,” said Wilson when asked to grade her team’s performance against Spain. “We have to communicate more, talk more on defense and let each other know where we are so we can feel more comfortable about each other. That's kind of hard, because this is our first time really playing with each other, and that's something that's even hard to get through with college teams. So, I think we're really coming along. Communicating is going to be huge for this team, in order for us to win gold.”
Neither team was able to get much momentum going in the early minutes, and after 5:27 of play, Spain led 8-6. From there the teams swapped bucket for bucket and a Crystal Dangerfield (Blackman H.S./Murfreesboro, Tenn.) 3-pointer with three seconds to go in the first period lifted the USA to a 15-13 advantage.
“I was nervous,” said Collier, admitting to having opening-game jitters. “I don’t know what everybody else was feeling, but I really don’t know why we came out slow. I think it took a little time, but we picked it up a little bit.”
The red, white and blue turned the ball over twice in the first 35 seconds of the second quarter, which helped Spain pull in front 18-15.
However, the USA upped its pressure defense, resulting in eight steals on 10 Spanish miscues in the second period. Outrebounding Spain 15-7 in the second quarter, the American offense also began clicking. Spain was caught off guard and began picking up fouls. Capitalizing at the line, the U.S. shot 11-of-15 in the quarter, while Spain did not reach the line once, and the result was a 21-11 period that ended with the USA heading into the half with a 36-24 advantage.
“Anytime you’re able to be the aggressor, especially offensively, you put defenses back on their heels, and we were able to capitalize on them,” said Staley. “We need to do that throughout this tournament. If we’re getting to the free throw line, we’re being aggressive.”
Spain twice pulled as close as six points in the third quarter and trailed just 43-37 at 5:39. A 3-point play by Thomas ignited the red, white and blue, which outscored Spain 16-3 to close the period up 59-40.
With the game virtually in hand, Mariya Moore (Louisville/Richmond, Calif.) picked Spain’s pocket four-straight possessions in the fourth quarter’s opening minutes to help spur the United States to an 11-0 run that gave the USA its largest lead of the game, 70-40, with 7:46 to play.
“We were pressuring the ball more,” said Thomas of her team’s second-half surge. “The first half we weren't pressuring it as much. We were more laid back and letting them score. In the second half we got on them.”
From there the Americans put it in cruise control and came away with the win.
Shooting just 37.1 percent (26-70 FGs) from the field, the U.S. held Spain to an even lower 32.4 percent (22-68 FGs) for the night. The U.S. earned 16 points off of Spain’s 28 turnovers and Spain scored 14 off the USA’s 29 miscues.
The USA, which played its three-game exhibition tournament with 11 available athletes after Katie Lou Samuelson (Mater Dei H.S./Huntington Beach, Calif.) returned home due to a family illness, suited up a full 12-member team to start the game. Named as Samuelson’s replacement, Destiny Slocum (Mountain View H.S./Meridian, Idaho) left Idaho on Friday, arrived in Moscow Saturday evening and arrived at the arena in time for warm-ups.
“I knew that my shot was probably going to be off because I hadn’t shot in over 24 hours, so I thought, why not come out, play some really hard ‘D,’ and then maybe everything would fall after that,” said Slocum. “I also wanted to help the team with energy. That was my goal.
“It was worth 24 hours of travel, I can tell you that. You wait 17 years for something and then it happens. I think it just felt awesome.”
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, host Russia (1-0) ran past Taiwan (0-1) 89-43 and Netherlands (1-0) took Argentina (0-1) 79-65 in Group A. Group C saw Belgium (1-0) upset France (0-1) 64-60 and Canada (1-0) defeated Mali (0-1) 71-62; while in Group D, Australia (1-0) easily handled Serbia (0-1) 105-62 and Brazil (1-0) dispatched South Korea (0-1) 82-51.
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). The 16 teams will be seeded following the July 18-21 preliminary play and advance to the knockout phase with the round of 16 on July 22. The quarterfinals are scheduled for July 24, semifinals are on July 25 and the tournament will end with the medal games on July 26.
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 Spain, USA women’s teams are 67-12 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).