USA U18 Women Overwhelm Puerto Rico for 103-59 Win, Secure No. 1 Seed
Trailing Puerto Rico (1-2) 14-11 midway through the first quarter, the 2018 USA Basketball Women’s U18 National Team (3-0) changed the game’s momentum with a 22-4 run to close the period, and then went on to secure a 103-59 victory on Aug. 3 at Juan de la Barrera gym in Mexico City.
With the win, the USA also earned the No. 1 seed out of Group A for the quarterfinals at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship, where it will meet El Salvador (0-3), the No. 4 seed out of Group B, at 3 p.m. EDT on Aug. 5. The game will be available to watch live online at Facebook.com/USABasketball.
NaLyssa Smith (Baylor/Converse, Texas) led the USA with 24 points and seven rebounds; Ashley Joens (Iowa State/Iowa City, Iowa) contributed 11 points and eight rebounds; Rhyne Howard (Kentucky/Cleveland, Tenn.); scored 11 points to go with her six steals; and Nazahrah Hillmon-Baker (Michigan/Cleveland, Ohio) and Olivia Nelson-Ododa (Connecticut/Winder, Ga.) each finished with 10 points.
"We started a little sluggish,” said USA head coach Jeff Walz (Louisville). “We did not come prepared mentally like I was hoping. But, we made some adjustments, and I give credit to all of the players, they bounced back. They started to play with more excitement, with more passion, and that’s when things turned around for us.”
Puerto Rico scored first and, helped by a 6-0 run, led 16-15 with 3:40 on the clock. From there, however, it was all USA. A score from Smith was the start of an 18-2 run that gave the USA the lead and a 33-18 advantage at the first break.
The USA’s defensive pressure was responsible for the turnaround, and the USA forced 14 of Puerto Rico’s 34 turnovers in the game in the first 10 minutes, which it converted into 20 points in the first quarter and 37 points overall.
“We executed today,” Smith said. “I thought we played more as a team, and we just moved the ball great, so I feel like it was a good win.”
In the second quarter, the USA increased its advantage by just two points, outscoring Puerto Rico 17-15 to lead 50-33 at halftime.
The USA was in control throughout the second half, pushing its advantage to 78-48 after three quarters and then breaking into triple digits for a second straight night in the fourth quarter to secure the 103-59 win.
“We found out that we needed to come together as a team and figure out how we could get our momentum going, and that started on the defensive end,” Hillmon-Baker said. “We know that if we get a couple of stops, then we get in transition and get our shots up. Starting on defense is where our points are going to come from.”
The USA’s 63-31 rebounding advantage led to 29 second-chance points, while the U.S. bench was responsible for 73 points. The USA also raced to 33 fastbreak points and 64 points in the paint.
“I don’t think we started off the way we wanted to, but we picked it up and played together more as a team,” Nelson-Ododa said. “And, we got the outcome that we wanted.”
Christyn Williams (Connecticut/Little Rock, Ark.) did not play due to illness.
The three other quarterfinal games will feature: Argentina (2-1) versus Mexico (1-2), Puerto Rico against Colombia (2-1); and Chile (0-3) versus Canada (3-0).
Also today, Argentina beat Chile 82-56; Colombia topped El Salvador 80-48 and Canada defeated host Mexico 65-54.
The USA’s assistant coaches are Natasha Adair (Delaware) and Cori Close (UCLA).