Defense Propels USA U17 Women to 66-31 Quarterfinal Win Over Spain
The 2018 USA Basketball Women’s U17 World Cup Team (5-0) relied on its defensive pressure in a 66-31 victory over Spain (2-3) in the quarterfinals of the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup on July 27 in Minsk, Belarus.
With the win, the USA advances to the July 28 semifinals, where it will face Hungary (5-0). The USA’s semifinal match-up will be available to watch live on ESPN+ (1:30 p.m. EDT), and the France (5-0) – Australia (5-0) semifinal (11 a.m. EDT) also will air on ESPN+.
Zia Cooke (Rogers H.S./Toledo, Ohio) led the USA with 14 points on 6-of-6 shooting from the field, and Paige Bueckers (Hopkins H.S./St. Louis Park, Minn.) added 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting. As a team, the USA shot 46.9 percent for the game (30-64 FGs).
The Americans outrebounded Spain 47-27 behind a game-high nine caroms from Aliyah Boston (Worcester Academy/St. Thomas, USVI), eight from Horston and seven from Fran Belibi (Regis Jesuit H.S./Centennial, Colo.).
“We came out at halftime really poised defensively, knowing the scout, knowing who we needed to guard on the perimeter,” said Carla Berube, USA U17 and Tufts University head coach. “We had some great help defense, good post defense. We did a better job on the boards, not allowing them to get easy, second-chance shots. So, I’m really pleased with their defensive effort.
“The nice thing about us, anybody can step up and be a scoring option. So, it’s a nice benefit to have 12 great players on your team. We’re looking forward to our opponent tomorrow. We’re happy with the win tonight, and now it’s time to look toward the semifinals.”
The U.S. defense limited Spain to just 24.5 percent shooting (13-53 FGs) and gave up just one quarter in which Spain scored double-digit points, which was a 10-point second period.
Holding a 8-6 edge late in the first quarter, the USA received five points from Cooke in a 9-0 run that left the USA up 17-6. Spain scored the final bucket of the period to bring the first quarter to a 17-8 finish.
“It’s amazing,” said Cooke of being a spark off the bench. “It’s definitely something that’s new for me, but whatever I have to do to help my team win, I’m going to make sure I do it.”
The USA outscored Spain 17-10 in the second period for a 34-18 halftime lead.
It was the third quarter, however, when the Americans really put the pedal to the metal on defense and allowed just one field goal by the Europeans during the 10-minute span. In the third quarter alone, the USA forced Spain into 1-of-11 shooting from the field, scored six points off six turnovers and headed into the final stanza with a 52-22 advantage.
The U.S. won the fourth quarter 14-9 to secure the 66-31 win.
“We held them to 31 points, and that’s one of the lowest totals they’ve ever had at this tournament,” said Bueckers. “In the third and fourth quarters, we held them to 13 points. So, our defense was the key.”
Spain’s Helena Pueyo Melchor, who averaged 11.3 points and 5.0 rebounds, and Nerea Nermosa Monreal, who averaged 12.8 points and 10.0 rebounds per game over Spain’s first four contests, were limited to three points and two boards, and two points and five rebounds, respectively.
“(Our goals tonight were to) stop No. 10 (Helena Pueyo Melchor), because she was their main scorer,” said Horston. “Fran and Aliyah did a great job of boxing out No. 12 (Nerea Nermosa Monreal), because she was dominating on the offensive rebounds, and she only got two offensive rebounds. It was the lowest for her. I am really proud of them, they were really focused.”
In other medal quarterfinal games today, France remained perfect with a 67-43 win over Latvia (2-3), Hungary defeated Japan (3-2) 74-62, and Australia pulled away from Italy (3-2) in the fourth quarter for a 64-46 win.
“Hungary is a little bit more like a traditional team with some nice post play,” added Berube. “They have some really strong guards. We watched the Hungary-Spain game, so we know them a little bit. They shoot the ball well from the outside, and they have some good inside presence as well. It will be a challenge, for sure.”
In classification quarterfinals games, China (2-3) defeated Angola (0-5) 97-41, Mali (1-4) downed Argentina (2-3) 63-48, Canada (3-2) ran past Colombia (0-4) 71-51 and New Zealand (1-4) notched a 73-59 victory over Belarus (1-4).
Berube is being assisted by Lubbock Christian University head coach Steve Gomez and Winward School (Calif.) head coach Vanessa Nygaard.
Check out some of the highlights from the USA-Spain quarterfinal game!
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. Including its five victories in Minsk, the USA is now 34-1 all-time in the five 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).