USA U23 Women Capture U24 Four Nations Tournament Title
The USA U23 Women’s National Team (3-0) jumped out to a 23-10 first-quarter lead against host Japan (1-2) in its final game of the U24 Four Nations Tournament and early on left no doubt as to which team would be crowned tournament champion in a 103-71 win on Tuesday night at Katayanagi Arena in Tokyo.
While its offense was impressive, with 19 assists and five players finishing in double-digit scoring, the USA outrebounded Japan 66-35 and held Japan to just 31.4 percent from the field (27-86 FGs) and 25.0 percent from 3-point (6-24 3pt FGs).
“I thought that was the best we have played in our three games,” said Jeff Walz, USA U23 and University of Louisville head coach. “The kids came out and did exactly what we asked them to do. We knew that Japan was very disciplined on defense, and we tried to attack early, which we did. We shared the ball extremely well and made open shots. It was the best we have shot the ball as well, but a big part of that was because of how well we shared it.”
The USA was led by 16 points from Asia Durr (Louisville/ Douglasville, Ga.), 13 points and six assists from Kelsey Mitchell (Ohio State/Cincinnati, Ohio), 11 points and seven rebounds from Kalani Brown (Baylor/Slidell, La.), 11 points and six rebounds from Jamie Nared (Tennessee/Portland, Ore.) and 10 points from Jordin Canada (UCLA/Los Angeles, Calif.).
It was nearly five minutes into the game before Japan scored from the field, while Durr, Nared and Mercedes Russell (Tennessee/Springfield, Ore.) combined to help the USA start off with a 14-3 lead. The USA went on to earn a 23-10 advantage in the first 10 minutes, in what was its most impressive defensive quarter throughout the tournament, limiting Japan to just 4-of22 from the field (18.2 percent).
“We started off fast,” Durr said. “We pushed the ball, and we played as a team, which was key. We knew that they were aggressive, and they played hard and they played fast. We figured if we could jump on them soon, then we could take them down quick.”
Japan responded in the second quarter and nearly kept pace with USA, and the score was 44-33 with 1:34 left in second period. But, the USA finished the first half with eight points to lead 52-33 at the midway point.
The run extended into the third quarter, reaching 18 points overall as the USA opened the period with a 10-0 spurt to lead 62-33 with 7:55 on the clock. From there Japan put up 17 points to the USA’s 15 points, and the score was 77-50 headed into the fourth quarter.
The USA once again started off the period with an emphatic run, this time a 9-0 stretch that included points from Durr, Mitchell and Nared and brought the score to 86-50 with 8:14 left in the game. The USA pushed its lead to as many as 37 points, 95-58, at 3:25, and it reached 100 points for the second straight game on a score from Ariel Atkins (Texas/Duncanville, Texas) with 56.0 seconds remaining.
The 103-71 win saw the USA shoot 52.7 percent from the field (39-74 FGs) and 50.0 percent from 3-point (9-18 3pt FGs).
“It’s been awesome, having the opportunity to work with the best of the best in our college game,” Walz said. “I told the team after the game, as impressive as they were on the floor playing, was half as impressive as they were off the court. They are great young women. They are great ambassadors for our game, and I’m excited to watch not just my team play this coming season, but these young ladies’ teams, because college basketball is in good hands with this group.
Also today, Australia (2-1) topped Canada (0-3) 79-52. Australia finished in second place, followed by Japan third and Canada fourth.
The USA’s assistant coaches were Courtney Banghart of Princeton University and Michelle Clark-Heard of Western Kentucky University.
The 2017 U24 Four Nations Tournament was a round-robin tournament that included the USA, Australia, Canada and host Japan from Aug. 12-15.
“It’s been so fun, especially being younger and being able to learn from the older veterans,” said Sabrina Ionescu (Oregon/Walnut Creek, Calif.). “Just being with the team, and the great coaches and all of the great staff, it’s definitely been something I will never forget.”
The 2017 U24 Four Nations Tournament provided meaningful competition and development opportunities. The USA’s participation in the tournament was 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.