USA Women's U19 Team Dominates Italy 62-36
On a night when its shooting was off, a strong defensive effort propelled the 2017 USA Women’s U19 World Cup Team (2-0) past host Italy (0-2) for a 62-36 exhibition victory on Tuesday night in Spilimbergo, Italy. In the day’s earlier game of the 2017 Refrion Cup, a round-robin exhibition tournament, Spain (1-1) picked up a 56-50 victory over Latvia (1-1).
The Refrion Cup concludes July 19 with the USA facing Latvia (11:30 a.m. EDT) in the early game, followed by the closing game between Italy and Spain. (1:30 p.m. EDT).
The game’s leading scorer, Chennedy Carter (Timberview H.S./Arlington, Texas) scored 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting and was credited with four of the USA’s 16 steals. Alecia Sutton (Texas/St. Louis, Mo.) was the game’s only other double-digit scorer and finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Joyner Holmes (Texas/Cedar Hill, Texas), eight points and a game-best nine rebounds; Ruthy Hebard (Oregon/Fairbanks, Alaska), eight points and three rebounds; and Megan Walker (Monacan H.S./Chesterfield, Va.), seven points and seven caroms; were the team’s next three top scorers.
“Defensively, we were much better,” said USA U19 and University of Pittsburgh head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio. “We were more aggressive picking up their guards full court and disrupting what they were trying to do defensively, limiting them to a shorter clock in the half court. We stayed in plays. We played good help defense, so I’m very pleased with our improvement from yesterday to today. Offensively, I thought the ball movement was good and we made a lot of good decisions in transition within the half court and the open floor. We still struggled to shoot the ball like we are capable of doing. One thing I continue to tell this team is, continue to shoot the ball with a lot of confidence. As long as it’s in rhythm and you’re open and it’s a good shot, then you have the green light to take it. We will be a dangerous team once we start hitting shots, because if we can put in a defensive effort like we had tonight with a great shooting performance, this could be a great team.
“In a short time, we are asking a lot of them. They are coming together as a team, but we still have a ways to go. You never settle for anything you’ve done. You’re always trying to improve moving forward and going into the next game.”
Tyasha Harris (South Carolina/Noblesville, Ind.) put up the game’s first points and the USA never trailed. The first period, however, saw the score knotted three times and after a Hebard layup broke a 7-7 tie, Sutton sandwiched an Italy basket with a put-back and a jumper at the first quarter buzzer, giving the Americans a 13-9 lead.
In the second quarter the USA began to slowly pull away. Holding a 21-16 edge, the U.S. got scores from four different players in an 11-3 run that expanded the lead to 32-19 with 2:09 to play before the break. Each team scored two more field goals, which included an Italian 3-pointer, before the half and the USA headed into the locker room up 36-24.
For the initial 2:30 out of the break neither team managed to connect the ball with the net, until Italy broke the scoring drought with two points at 7:30, which closed the gap to 10 points, 36-26.
That’s when the red, white and blue turned up the heat on defense, which spurred the offense into a 15-0 scoring run, seven of which came from Carter, to close the third period up 51-26.
“We just played a little bit harder (than yesterday),” said Carter. “We focused more on the defensive end. When you focus more on the defensive end, it creates offense, and that allowed us to run in transition and finish some breaks. We played together and played as a team tonight. We helped each other out. We stayed within coach’s plan and we came out successful.”
The USA’s defense was so effective in the third quarter, it forced Italy, which closed out the game shooting 25.0 percent (14-56 FGs) overall and 17.6 percent (3-17 3pt FGs) from beyond the arc, into a frigid 8.3 percent (1-12 FGs) from the floor and 0-of-5 from 3-point during the stanza. Further, the USA scored 10 points on the fast break, had eight steals and collected 10 points off of 10 Italian turnovers in the third quarter alone.
“Italy was really fast,” said Sutton. “They could score. But, what we focused on tonight was defending, and I think our defense played really well tonight. I think that’s what made us successful tonight.”
Italy never again threatened and the USA cruised in for the victory.
The U.S. squad, which hit just 38.5 percent (25-65 FGs) of its shots on the night, outrebounded Italy 53-21 and dished out 15 assists. The American women also earned 25 points off of Italy’s 21 turnovers, outscored Italy 38-14 in the paint, 25-0 in transition and 38-11 off the bench.
“Megan (Walker) stepped up really well, Sug (Alecia Sutton) stepped up and played well,” said Holmes. “I think our players did well to rebound today, and we hedged hard on screens for our guards. I think we all played well. It was a good team effort tonight.”
Bella Alarie (Princeton/Bethesda, Md.) did not compete due to an injured right wrist and is listed as day-to-day.
McConnell-Serio is being assisted by collegiate head coaches Kamie Ethridge from the University of Northern Colorado and Charlotte Smith from Elon University.
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.
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.
FIBA U19 World Cup for Women
Originally known as the FIBA Junior World Championship, FIBA changed the names of its age-based world championships in 2005 to reflect the age of eligibility, and recently updated the names of all of its world championships to world cups. The tournament was held every four years starting in 1985. FIBA in 2005 modified its calendar and now conducts the U19 World Cup every other year. USA women's teams are 73-12 in U19/Junior World Cups, capturing a sixth-consecutive gold in 2015 with a 7-0 record.
Notable players to represent the USA at the FIBA U19 World Championship include: Alana Beard (2001), Essence Carson (2005), Tamika Catchings (1997), Bria Hartley (2011), Crystal Langhorne (2005), Jantel Lavender (2007), Lisa Leslie (1989), Rebecca Lobo (1993), Maya Moore (2007), Nnemkadi Ogwumike (2009), Vickie Orr (1985), Cappie Pondexter (2001), Katie Smith (1993), Dawn Staley (1989), Azurá Stevens (2015), Breanna Stewart (2011 and MVP of the 2013 U19 World Championship), Diana Taurasi (2001), Morgan Tuck (2011 and 2013) and A’ja Wilson (2013 and MVP of the 2015 U19 World Championship).