USA Women's U19 Team Takes Down Spain 84-72 In Exhibition Opener
Ruthy Hebard (Oregon/Fairbanks, Alaska) shot 8-of-8 from the floor and finished as the game’s high scorer with 19 points, while also grabbing eight rebounds. Hebard led five U.S. athletes in double-digit scoring, including Crystal Dangerfield (Connecticut/Murfreesboro, Tenn.) with 17 points and three assists; Tyasha Harris (South Carolina/Noblesville, Ind.) finished with 12 points, three assists and five steals; Chennedy Carter (Timberview H.S./Arlington, Texas) chipped in 10 points to go with eight of the USA’s 19 assists; and Bella Alarie (Princeton/Bethesda, Md.), playing in her first game for USA Basketball, added 10 points to go with eight caroms and four blocked shots.
“It was a great first test for us,” said USA U19 and University of Pittsburgh head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio. “Spain was a very good team. They were relentless with their pressure full court, and made us work for 40 minutes. I think it was a great challenge for us to handle that type of pressure. We’re trying to play 12 players and still work on combinations throughout the course of the game, but they never quit. They just kept coming at us and coming at us. I thought we had a lot of good looks throughout the game that we just didn’t’ finish very well. They came back and tied it. When they tied it, out of the timeout, we just talked about us needing to pick it up defensively and disrupting. That group on the floor at the end of the game finished with a 12-0 run, and gave us that win. We were able to pull away and make plays when we needed to, but it’s something that, from a learning standpoint, we have to compete like that for 40 minutes and not wait until the end of the game to turn up our defense.”
The U.S. continues its FIBA U19 World Cup preparations with a July 18 contest against host Italy (1:30 p.m. EDT), while Latvia and Spain will face off in the evening’s first contest. The exhibition tournament concludes July 19 when the USA faces Latvia (11:30 a.m. EDT), followed by the closing game between Italy and Spain.
“I think it was a good game,” said Hebard. “I think it was a good game to test the waters to see what other teams might throw at us, and we played really well.”
In a game of swings, the score was knotted at 72-all after a Spanish jumper hit its mark with 4:10 remaining in the contest. Alarie gave the USA the lead for good with a free throw with 3:54 remaining in the game and Harris followed with a steal and layup, after which Spain called time out at 3:39 with the USA up 75-72.
Both teams were unable to convert on their ensuing possessions and on the next Spain attempt, Alarie blocked the shot and Dangerfield came up with the rebound. She passed it to Carter for a bucket at 3:07 to make it 77-72. The U.S. pressured Spain into three straight misses, while Hebard got her own put-back and following a Spanish turnover, the USA closed out the game with a Dangerfield 3 and Harris converted a steal into a fast-break layup for the game’s final points as the USA capped the night on a 12-0 run.
“Coming down the stretch, Crystal hit a big 3 and Bella got to the free throw line,” added McConnell-Serio. “You look at Ruthy, she had a layup and Ty (Harris) had a steal and layup. The scoring opportunities that we created down the stretch is what we need to see more often. These players are all capable of hitting shots. We could still have a little jet lag, but that’s not an excuse. We still need to compete for 40 minutes. We’re capable of that.”
The first quarter was a back-and-forth affair that saw seven lead changes and a four tied scores, and the USA found itself trailing 17-16 late in the period. With 50 seconds remaining Harris pulled up for a jumper, then hit a pair of free throws on the USA’s next possession and with a second left on the clock Megan Walker (Monacan H.S./Chesterfield, Va.) drove inside to put the Americans up 22-17 at the end of the first stanza.
Spain, however, got a traditional 3-point play early in the second quarter and followed it with a 3-pointer for a 6-0 spurt to draw ahead 23-22 at 7:47. Dangerfield countered with a 3 at 7:35, putting the USA up 25-23, and the U.S. never again trailed. The 5-6 guard’s long ball sparked a 15-0 run that saw four different players score and ended on a Hebard bucket at 3:44 with the USA in control, 37-23.
Not backing down, Spain closed out the first half on an 8-2 run and the USA’s edge was eight, 39-31, at the midway break.
In the third quarter, the Americans again looked poised to run away with the game after expanding the gap to 56-38 at 6:37. But each time the USA attempted to pull away, Spain had a countermeasure and at the end of the third quarter, the USA’s lead was reeled back to 13 points, 63-50.
Slowly chipping away at the gap, Spain was within nine points, 72-61, and started to frustrate the USA defensively, causing a pair of missed shots, while scoring six-straight points to pull to within 72-67 with 5:39 to play.
At that point, McConnell-Serio called a time out, but turnovers on three consecutive possessions allowed Spain to pull even at 72-72 with 4:10 remaining on the clock.
Those were Spain’s final points of the evening.
“They’ve always been good from everything I know about them,” said Dangerfield of Spain’s women’s program. “They’ve always been good and they were consistent tonight. They played hard, so I think that was a good game for us. I think we showed really good poise down the stretch. They tied the game up, but we were able to hold them off.”
The USA outrebounded Spain 41-33 and outscored the Europeans in the paint 48-30. However, Spain scored 29 points off of 24 U.S. turnovers and the Americans scored 27 off of Spain’s 21 turnovers.
The U.S. shot 47.1 percent (33-70 FGs) from the field and held Italy to 39.1 percent (25-64 FGs).
Six-time defending FIBA U19 World Cup gold medalists, the USA is hoping to make it a lucky seven in a row at the 12th FIBA U19 World Cup, held July 22-30 in Cividale del Friuli and Udine, Italy.
Following the exhibition tournament, the USA squad will have an additional two days to practice, which will include a scrimmage against France’s U19 squad on July 20, prior to opening 2017 U19 World Cup play against Mali on July 22.
McConnell-Serio is being assisted by collegiate head coaches Kamie Ethridge from the University of Northern Colorado and Charlotte Smith from Elon University.
After opening against Mali on July 22, the USA will face China on July 23 and cap the preliminary round against host Italy on July 25. Also competing in the 16-nation tournament are Australia, Canada, Egypt, France, Hungary, Japan, Latvia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Russia, South Korea and Spain.
Following the preliminary round, teams will be seeded according to group play, and all participating teams will advance to the July 26 round of 16. Winners will advance to the July 28 medal quarterfinals, while the remaining teams will continue playing out for classification. The medal semifinals will be held July 29, and the gold and bronze medal games are slated for July 30.