USA U19 Women Into Round of 16 Undefeated With 66-49 Win Over Italy
On a night when shots were not falling, the 2017 USA Women’s U19 World Cup Team (3-0) was buoyed by its veteran leaders as it battled past host Italy (1-2) for a 66-49 victory at the FIBA U19 World Cup on Tuesday night in Udine, Italy.
Two-time gold medalist and USA co-captain Crystal Dangerfield (Connecticut/Murfreesboro, Tenn.) scored 11 points and dished out a USA U19 single-game record-tying nine assists; while 2016 USA U18 National Team gold medalist Tyasha Harris (South Carolina/Noblesville, Ind.) also contributed 11 points to go with five rebounds, three assists and five steals. USA U19 co-captain and 2016 USA U18 gold medalist Ruthy Hebard (Oregon/Fairbanks, Alaska), who was hampered by two fouls in the first half, finished the night with eight points and seven rebounds, and 2014 FIBA U17 World Cup gold medalist Joyner Holmes (Texas/Cedar Hill, Texas) scored nine points and grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.
The USA advances to the knockout round as the top team out of Group A and will face Puerto Rico (0-3) in the July 26 round of 16 (12 p.m. EDT). 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.
“We knew coming in that this was going to be a different game than when we saw them previously,” said USA U19 and University of Pittsburgh head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio. “They had two new players that give them great depth. We knew they were going to come out with a lot of energy in front of their home crowd, and we didn’t respond. In that first quarter, we struggled offensively. We realized, at that point, that we were going to have to grind this one out.”
After the U.S. went up 12-7 in the first quarter, Italy countered with a 6-0 run to close the first stanza up 13-12, its only lead of the game.
Dropping a trio of 3s to open the second quarter, the USA jumped ahead for good with 4:40 to play before the midway break. However, Italy closed the gap to 21-19 on another 6-0 run, this time aided by 4-of-6 shooting from the line with just under two minutes remaining in the period, and at halftime the USA’s lead was a slim 24-21.
By halftime, the USA’s shooting percentage was a frigid 26.3 percent (10-38 FGs), but the team had committed just five turnovers and had six assists on 10 made baskets.
The scoring went back and forth at the start of the second half, and with 6:08 to play in the third quarter the USA had increased its lead by a point, 32-28.
Dangerfield was fouled driving to the basket and converted a 3-point play, sparking an 11-2 run that was capped with a pair of buckets from Holmes and the USA had some breathing room, 43-30.
“We just believed in each other and believed in our coach,” said Harris on how the team was able to stay focused and pull away in the second half. “We made sure to huddle after every mistake, every turnover, every free throw, that way we could talk about what we were going to do. We just stuck together.”
While Italy scored its final nine points in the third period from beyond the arc, the USA picked up points in a variety of ways – a traditional 3-point play by Overbeck, a free throw from Holmes, a steal and a layup by Holmes and a Harris 3-pointer to end the third period gave the USA a 52-39 advantage.
“I knew the team we were playing had that home court advantage,” said Holmes, who had seven points and 10 boards in the second half. “They had everything on their side, so I knew we had to come with it. We had some post players in foul trouble, so I wanted to make sure I came with it in terms of energy on offensive and defensive sides. So, that’s what I brought tonight.”
The Americans continued to play with high intensity in the fourth quarter and went up by as many as 19 points before cruising in for the 66-49 win.
“After the half, we talked about it and said we needed to push through and just keep playing,” said Bella Alarie (Princeton/Bethesda, Md.), who grabbed nine boards overall and scored all six of her points in the first quarter. “We found that spark, we got the lead, and that’s when we kind of picked our energy up and got the win.”
The USA, which hit 43.6 percent (17-39 FGs) in the second half, finished the night shooting 35.1 percent (27-77 FGs) from the floor. The American women, who dished out 19 assists and had 14 steals, outrebounded Italy 52-32 and scored 19 points off of Italy’s 19 turnovers. Further, the U.S. scored 18 second-chance points and 13 points in transition, while its bench outscored Italy 30-17.
Dangerfield’s nine assists, eight of which came in the second half, tied Ariel Massengale for the USA U19 single-game record. Massengale dished out nine against Brazil at the 2011 FIBA U19 World Cup.
“Crystal, she is a crafty little point guard,” said McConnell-Serio. “She is so good at finding the open player, at making plays, and I think she has grown into a better leader and into a better playmaker because she has a lot of responsibility in her position of being a playmaker, a point guard, scorer, running offense, dictating tempo defensively. As a starting point guard, that’s a lot of responsibility.”
After five Americans saw limited playing time in the first half due to two fouls apiece, the U.S. closed the game with five athletes being called for three or more infractions.
In the other Group A game today, China (2-1) defeated Mali (0-3) 72-54 to take the No. 2 seed out of the pool. In other groups today, Australia (2-1) beat Hungary (1-2) 75-51, Japan (3-0) remained undefeated with a 91-52 rout of Mexico (0-3), France (2-1) edged South Korea (0-3) 63-53, Canada (3-0) held off Latvia (1-2) 74-70, Spain (2-1) came back to down Egypt (1-2) and Russia (3-0) raced past Puerto Rico (0-3) 85-50.
McConnell-Serio is being assisted by collegiate head coaches Kamie Ethridge from the University of Northern Colorado and Charlotte Smith from Elon University.
FIBA U19 World Cup for Women
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.
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. Including its three victories in 2017, USA women's teams are 76-12 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).