USA Women Out Duel Russia 78-70 For Sixth-Straight U19 Gold Medal
CHEKHOV, Russia - Like it had done the entire tournament, the 2015 USA Basketball Women’s U19 World Championship Team (7-0) went inside early and often to capture a record sixth-straight and seventh overall FIBA U19 World Championship gold medal. Played in front of a packed full and deafening arena, the USA captured the gold medal in a 78-70 fight-to-the-finish victory against host Russia (6-1) on Sunday night in Chekhov, Russia.
Australia (6-1) earned the bronze medal after holding off Spain (3-4) 69-62.
A’ja Wilson (South Carolina/Hopkins, S.C.), who scored a USA U19 single-game record 30 points against Russia and averaged 18.3 points per game throughout the tournament, earned MVP honors. She was joined on the five-member all-tournament team by Napheesa Collier (Incarnate Word Academy/O’Fallon, Mo.), who had 10 points, 10 rebounds and six steals against Russia. Also named to the all-tournament team were Russia's Daria Kolosovskaia and Maria Vadeeva, as well as Alanna Smith of Australia.
“I had a great opportunity to work with A’ja and Napheesa last summer, so I think they were familiar with our style of play and how we like to play,” said USA U19 and University of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley, who is now a perfect 21-0 as a USA Basketball head coach. “It was great to have their veteran leadership coming into a tournament like this and also playing well throughout, just setting the tone and setting the example of how we need to play and how we need to approach it to win in a tight situation like tonight in the gold medal game.
“What we wanted to do was limit the amount of production from their top two scorers, Raisa Musina and Maria Vadeeva,” added Staley on her team’s plan heading into the gold medal contest. “We just tried to cut their production in half to try to make other players beat us. Fortunately for us it kind of worked for long stretches in the game, but a team like Russia is not going to go away. They are a really good basketball team. They work well together. They are going to win a lot more basketball games. I hope we only see them in gold-medal games, because they are a crew that is hard to reckon with.”
Including tonight’s game, in which the Americans outscored their hosts 46-20 in the paint, over the seven games the squad averaged 49.1 points per game on its inside play, while limiting opponents to just 18.9 points near the basket. Further, the U.S. outrebounded Russia 48-35 and capped its seven games by averaging 56.9 rebounds to its opponents 35.3 a contest.
“It was so tough,” Wilson said of playing against host Russia. “I thought away games were tough, but playing an away game in a whole different country against the home team is just out of this world. They had such great fans that were nonstop cheering.
“It was great to win this medal, and to win against the host team is always great.”
Also scoring in double digits were Azurá Stevens (Duke/Raleigh, N.C.) with 18 points, 10 of which came in the first quarter, and six rebounds; while Chatrice White (Illinois/Shelby, Neb.) scored nine of her 10 points in the second half and grabbed five boards.
“It feels amazing,” said Collier. “All the hard work that we all put in showed tonight. It paid off.”
In a game that saw six lead changes and 10 tied scores, the Americans trailed 21-19 at the end if the first quarter.
Russia took its largest lead of the night, 27-19, on a 3-pointer at 8:24 to play in the second stanza. Staley called for a time out to regroup, and her team responded with a 10-3 run to trail by just a point, 30-29, at 5:15.
Russia pulled ahead to 34-30 with 2:47 to play before halftime, but Vadeeva picked up two quick fouls. Wilson stepped to the line and made one of two. Stevens followed with a pair to give the Americans a lead it would never relinquish, 35-34. Collier and Wilson followed with back-to-back buckets to help the USA close the half on a 9-0 run and take a 39-34 lead at the midway break.
“It was really hard, especially against the crowd,” Stevens said. “They were so amped up. It was like playing against another player. Their girls down low are just really physical, which we have dealt with before, but we had not really faced a team with three and four girls like they had. That was tough on the inside.”
Russia, which hit eight of its 10 3-pointers in the second half, outscored the U.S. 19-18 in the third quarter. However, holding a one-point, 54-53, lead and with time winding down, White banked in a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer to not only lift her side to a four-point, 57-53 lead with 10 minutes to play, but energize her squad for the final period.
“Personally, I was so hyped,” said Mariya Moore (Louisville/Richmond, Calif.) of White’s 3-pointer. “I would not say we were down, or feeling down, but I think that just boosted us even more to help us push through in the last quarter.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Crystal Dangerfield (Blackman H.S./Murfreesboro, Tenn.) grabbed a Russian miss and dished off to Moore, who hit a 3 at 9:21 that put the USA up 60-53.
Russia called for a stop in action and then scored the next four points to make it a three-point game, 60-57, with 7:42 to go.
The game remained tight as Russia hit a pair of 3s, while the Americans had to work for every point, and with 5:46 to go in the tournament, Russia remained within striking distance, 67-63.
Several of the host's top players already were in foul trouble, though, and Vadeeva picked up her fourth with a little over five minutes left, sending Wilson to the line. Wilson, who drew eight fouls and hit 8-of-12 on the night, sunk her second to make it 68-63.
The next to score was Russia on a back-door pass, and at 4:21 the hosts were a 3-pointer away from tying the game with the score at 68-65.
However, a drive to the hoop by White sparked a 7-0 run, and the red, white and blue had its largest lead of the contest, 75-65, with only 2:41 to play.
Russia netted its third and final 3-pointer of the quarter and followed that with a fast-break layin at 1:57. Assisted by White, Collier came up with a bucket 24 seconds later, and Russia never again countered. The USA's defense clamped down while a free throw from Dangerfield with 15.2 seconds to play brought the score to its final.
“We have been working so hard for a month now, and to reach our ultimate goal is really great,” Dangerfield said.
Assisting Staley and the U19 squad were collegiate head coaches Kim Barnes Arico of the University of Michigan and Jeff Walz of the University of Louisville.
Today’s win ups the USA’s overall record to 73-12 dating to the first U19 tournament in 1985. Even more impressive, in the past eight U19s, the USA has captured seven gold medals and one bronze medal with a 61-4 record during that span, including this year’s 7-0 mark.
Overall, including her USA National Team assistant coaching stints, Staley’s USA Basketball coaching record stands at an impressive 64-4.
In classification games today, France (5-2) finished in fifth place with a 53-40 victory over Belgium (5-2), China (4-3) took seventh after routing Canada (2-5) 67-47, Netherlands (5-2) earned an 83-72 win against Brazil (3-4) to finish in ninth place, Serbia’s (4-3) 58-46 victory over Mali (1-6) was good for 11th place, South Korea (2-5) took 13th place after beating Taiwan (2-5) 78-67, and Argentina (1-6) picked up its first win and ended up in 15th place after a seven-point, 50-43 victory over Egypt (0-7).
- A’ja Wilson becomes just the fourth USA athlete to participate in and claim two FIBA U19 World Championship medals after claiming gold in 2013. She joins the trio of Baylor’s Alexis Jones and Connecticut’s Morgan Tuck and Breanna Stewart, who teamed up in 2011 and 2013 to win gold medals.
- USA head coach Dawn Staley became the first U.S. coach to both play in and coach a USA U19 World Championship Team. Previously known as the FIBA Junior World Championship, Staley’s first outing in a USA Basketball uniform came at the 1989 Junior Worlds. Her U.S. team finished in seventh place with a 3-4 record.
- After finishing off the podium in the first three FIBA U19/Junior World Championships (1985, 1989, 1993), the United States has medaled in every U19/Junior Worlds since then.
- Russia previously claimed two silver medals at the FIBA U19s, in 2001 and 1993.
- This marked Australia’s third bronze medal. The nation, which also won gold in 1993 and silver in 1997, also took bronze in 1989 and 2013.