Defense Spurs USA U17 Women to 103-38 Exhibition Win Over Latvia
In a strong defensive effort that forced 28 turnovers and held Latvia (1-1) to 21.8 percent shooting from the field, the 2018 USA Basketball Women’s U17 World Cup Team (2-0) sprinted to a 103-38 exhibition victory on Sunday night in Liepaja, Latvia.
All 12 players scored by the third quarter and the balanced attack resulted in each U.S. athlete putting up between six and 15 points, including four who finished in double digits. Charisma Osborne (Windward School/Moreno Valley, Calif.) checked in for a game-high 15 points; Paige Bueckers (Hopkins H.S./St. Louis Park, Minn.) scored 10 points, dished out six assists and had three steals; Haley Jones (Archbishop Mitty H.S./Santa Cruz, Calif.) added 10 points, four rebounds, three assists and a pair of blocked shots; and Celeste Taylor (Long Island Lutheran H.S./Valley Stream, N.Y.) scored 10 points and notched a game-high six steals. Jordan Horston (Columbus Africentric Early College/Columbus, Ohio) was one point shy of a double-double after scoring nine points and securing a game-best 10 caroms.
“After the first couple of minutes at the start, where Latvia really took it to us, we turned it around,” said Carla Berube, USA U17 and Tufts University head coach. “We turned the game around with our defense. There’s a group that came off the bench and really got into the passing lanes, got on the defensive boards, we got out running and were making plays.
“Our defense will be the key in Belarus. We also played some zone that looked really good. So, I’m excited to have that balance on the defensive end.”
With the help of three 3-pointers and a traditional 3-point play, Latvia held an early 14-6 lead at 4:18 in the first period. However, with fresh legs off the bench, the USA took off on a 23 run that bridged the quarter break and at 9:51 to play before halftime the Americans owned a 29-14 cushion.
Latvia never again threatened. By halftime the lead was 51-23, and the U.S. outscored its hosts 29-9 in the third quarter and 23-6 in the fourth.
“Our balance is going to be another one of our keys,” said Berube. “We’re really deep. We can turn to anybody on the bench, and we know that they’re going to bring a lift to the game when the starters come out. Then when they come back in, they bring another lift. We want to wear teams down with our numbers and how hard we play and how hard we run.”
“Being down in the first quarter was a little bit of a reality check that we weren’t playing our best, playing to our full potential,” said Jones. “We subbed in and they brought a lot of energy and we fed off that energy through the rest of the first quarter, made a little run and kept it up the entire game.”
The USA, which outrebounded Latvia 56-33, was credited with 21 steals and scored 35 points off of turnovers. The Americans outscored Latvia 50-8 points in the paint, 17-4 on second chances, 25-0 on the fast break and 59-27 points off the bench. The U.S. shot 53.3 percent from the floor and 35.3 percent from beyond the arc, and dished out 25 assists on 40 made baskets.
“We played really well together offensively,” said Taylor. “We were moving the ball, we passed it around to get those open looks, and we all had a lot of opportunities to score. But, our defense is what helps us a lot, especially getting defensive boards, steals and diving for loose balls. That’s what our team does really well.”
The USA closes out its exhibition series in the Latvia U17 International Invitational against Canada (1-1) on July 16 (10 a.m. EDT). Earlier in the evening Canada defeated China (0-2) 83-73. The four teams are utilizing the exhibition tournament as preparation for the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup, scheduled to be held July 21-29 in Minsk, Belarus.
“We watched Canada the past two days and got to see them quite a bit in Argentina at the U16s last year,” Berube said. “They’re a little bit different, but they’re athletic. They play really tough defense. They’ve got some playmakers, so we have to do a great job of knowing their personnel and playing together defensively, and making sure we control the defensive boards because they can get on the boards and create a lot of second-chance opportunities. So, it will be a good test.”
“They’re a very athletic, skilled team,” added Jones. “They’re disciplined, so it will be another good challenge for us. We match up kind of similarly in certain positions, so it will be good.”
Arriving in Minsk July 17, the team will continue training through July 20 for its July 21 opening game against Italy (8:15 a.m. EDT). The USA will face Mali on July 22 (8:30 a.m. EDT) and China on July 24 (time TBD). The preliminary games will be streamed live online at on YouTube.com/FIBA.
All 16 teams in the U17 World Cup advance to the July 25 round of 16, and winners will compete in the July 27 quarterfinals. Medal semifinals will be held July 28, and the gold medal will be contested July 29.
In addition to host Belarus and the USA, nations competing in the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup are: Angola, Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, France, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Mali, New Zealand and Spain.
Berube is being assisted by Lubbock Christian University head coach Steve Gomez and Winward School (Calif.) head coach Vanessa Nygaard.
FIBA U17 World Cup for Women
The FIBA U17 World Cup for Women, which is held every two years, originated in 2010. The USA captured the 2010 FIBA U17 World Cup gold medal. Also claiming gold in 2012 and 2014, the USA's winning streak at the FIBA U17s was halted in 2016 by eventual gold medalist Australia in the semifinal game. The USA, however, rebounded to claim bronze with a 6-1 record. The USA is now 29-1 all-time in the four editions of the event.
Some of the players who have competed for USA Women’s U17 National Teams include: Lindsay Allen (2012), Diamond DeShields (2012), Rebecca Greenwell (2012), Joyner Holmes (2014), Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (2010), Ariel Massengale (2010), Olivia Nelson-Ododa (2016), Mercedes Russell (2012), Katie Lou Samuelson (2016), Breanna Stewart (2010), Christyn Williams (2016) and Elizabeth Williams (2010).