Third-Quarter Surge Propels USA U23 Women Past Australia 78-60
The 2017 USA Basketball Women’s U23 National Team recorded a 78-60 win over Australia in its first game of the inaugural U24 Four Nations Tournament on Saturday night at Katayanagi Arena in Tokyo. The USA led by seven points at halftime, 41-34, before outscoring Australia 23-12 in the third quarter to take control of the game.
“I thought we did a really nice job,” said Jeff Walz, USA U23 and University of Louisville head coach. “We made some adjustment at halftime, came out and played a little bit harder. I thought we shared the ball. Instead of occupying it with the dribble, we did a really nice job of finding the person up the floor and attacked with the pass.”
Led by Asia Durr (Louisville/ Douglasville, Ga.) with 14 points, the USA recorded 15 assists on its 28 made field goals and held Australia to just 31.7 percent from the field (19-60 FGs).
“We played well as a team,” Durr said. “We started off slow, but we got it back on track. I think the most important thing about us playing tonight was getting stops and limited them to one shot on each possession.”
Sabrina Ionescu (Oregon/Walnut Creek, Calif.) added 13 points; Kalani Brown (Baylor/Slidell, La.) finished with 12 points, including 6-of-9 shooting from the free throw line; Kelsey Mitchell (Ohio State/Cincinnati, Ohio) tallied 11 points, four rebounds and three assists; and Jordin Canada (UCLA/Los Angeles, Calif.) dished out a game-high five assists.
“In the first half, we kind of had some good moments and some bad moments, but in the second half we really pulled it together,” Canada said. “We had great team chemistry, our team passing was huge for us, and defense. I thought we got after it in the second half, and we were able to get more steals. Overall, I thought we did a good job, but we can definitely improve.”
The USA led 11-9 in the first quarter when two 3-pointers from Ionescu bookended a free throw from Linnae Harper (Ohio State/Chicago, Ill.) to put the USA ahead 18-9, but Australia scored the final three points of the period, and the USA led 18-12 after the first 10 minutes.
The USA pushed its lead to 32-22 in the second period after two scores from Mitchell and a fastbreak basket from Durr at 3:50, but Australia responded to close the deficit to 41-34 at halftime.
The USA kicked off the second half with a three-point play from Mitchell, a 3-pointer from Durr and a three-point play from Mercedes Russell (Tennessee/Springfield, Ore.) and led 50-36 just 1:22 into the half. Australia could not slow the USA, which got seven points in the period from Brown in the third quarter alone. Behind six U.S. scorers who combined for 23 points, the USA led 64-46 headed into the final period.
“We came out in the second half with an attitude of trying to get each other the ball,” Walz said. “We shared the ball extremely well, which showed with our assists in the second half. And then defensively, we were more dialed in with our scouting report. I thought we forced them into a few things, and then we scored out of their turnovers.”
The USA led by as many as 24 points in the fourth quarter, but Australia fought back and matched the USA’s 14 points in the period, and the game ended with the USA recording a 78-60 win.
The USA will play Canada (0-1) at 3:30 a.m. ET on Aug. 13 and host Japan (1-0) at 5:30 a.m. ET on Aug. 15.
Also today, host Japan earned a 79-54 win over Canada.
The USA’s assistant coaches are Courtney Banghart of Princeton University and Michelle Clark-Heard of Western Kentucky University.
The 2017 U24 Four Nations Tournament is a round-robin tournament featuring USA, Australia, Canada and host Japan that is being played Aug. 12-15.
The 2017 U24 Four Nations Tournament will provide meaningful competition and development opportunities. The USA’s participation in the tournament is intended to help further develop the USA Basketball athlete pipeline and to help prepare athletes for possible future participation in the USA Basketball Women’s National Team pool.