USA U19 Women Open World Cup with 79-56 Win Over Australia
Taking control of the game with a 21-4 third-quarter output, the USA Women’s U19 World Cup Team (1-0) opened the 13th FIBA U19 World Cup with a 79-56 victory over Australia (0-1) on Saturday afternoon in Bangkok, Thailand.
Paige Bueckers (Hopkins H.S./St. Louis Park, Minn.) led the USA with 11 points, along with seven rebounds and six of her team’s 13 assists; Queen Egbo (Baylor/Houston, Texas) added 10 points and was 4-of-4 from the free throw line; Naz Hillmon-Baker (Michigan/Cleveland, Ohio) had 10 points and nine rebounds; and Rhyne Howard (Kentucky/Cleveland, Tenn.) and Hailey Van Lith (Cashmere H.S./Wenatchee, Wash.) also contributed 10 points apiece.
“We came out in the second half and played without fouling,” said Jeff Walz, USA U19 and University of Louisville head coach on the USA’s third-quarter surge. “We still played aggressive, dictated the tempo of the game and got Australia playing a little faster than they probably wanted to play. Then we got some easy baskets out of our defense, where in the first half we were just fouling too much. We were fouling in positions where there’s no need to foul. We were running over post players in transition, had too much hand on the ball when the ball handler was coming up the floor. We made a few small adjustments for that at halftime, and then we were able to start playing and I thought they did a very good job.”
In the first quarter, the USA jumped out 4-0 and then led by as many as nine points, 15-6 with 3:30 to play. Australia closed the gap to finish the quarter trailing 19-14. The USA scored 10 of its points from the free throw line in the first quarter.
The second period saw Australia tie the game at 21-21 just three minutes into the quarter, but the USA pushed its lead back to 28-22 at 4:58. Sinking three 3-pointers over the last three minutes of the first half, Australia tied the game at 32-all with 2:21 left, but the USA responded to lead 39-35 at the midway point.
“They came out very strong,” said Hillmon-Baker. “They wanted to come out fighting and that’s exactly what they did. They tried to force the tempo and force the pace and the physicality in the first half, which they did a good job of. We wanted to come out in the second half and be the ones changing the tempo.”
Which is precisely what the USA did in the second half.
Hillmon-Baker got a steal and finished off a layup 16 seconds into the third quarter. A minute later Bueckers scored off of another steal and the USA was off and running on a 10-0 spurt.
“Our defensive intensity is what really got us going,” said Hillmon-Baker. “I wouldn’t say that we had a strong offense in the first half, so getting stops and steals so we could get easy buckets is what really helped us pull away in the second half.”
Not allowing Australia to score for the first 3:48 and giving up just four points in the period overall, the USA led 60-39 with 10 minutes to play.
In all, the USA scored nine points off of nine Australian turnovers, recorded five steals and nine points on the fast break, and stymied Australia into shooting a frigid 15.4% (2-13 FGs) from the floor in the third period.
Australia attempted a comeback in the fourth period, drawing to 16 points, 66-50, with 4:34 to play, but the Americans went on a 13-2 run that put the game well out of reach for its largest lead of the game, 79-52, and cruised in for the win.
Fran Belibi isn't giving up anything 🖐 easy in the paint for @usabasketball 🇺🇸! #FIBAU19— FIBA (@FIBA) July 20, 2019
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The Americans were hampered by fouls in the first half as five players were whistled for two apiece.
“A couple of us picked up two quick fouls, so ‘don’t foul’ was the main thing for me in the second half,” said Aliyah Boston (Worcester Academy, Mass./St. Thomas, USVI), who finished the game with eight points and seven rebounds after playing just 1:51 in the first half due to fouls. “I started focusing on other things, other ways to help the team and that just opened up things a lot.”
“At halftime, you look at the stat sheet and she had played less than two minutes,” said Walz of Boston. “So, she was well rested, and I told her, ‘you’re fresh, so go out there and do something.’ I thought she responded very well.”
The Americans won the rebounding battle 62-52, was credited with 16 steals and scored 22 points off of 22 Australia turnovers. The USA, which never trailed, outscored the Aussies 48-24 points in the paint.
The USA will continue preliminary round play against South Korea at 1 a.m. EDT on July 21, and after a rest day, will cap its preliminary round competition against Hungary at 1 a.m. EDT on July 23.
In the other Group C game today, Hungary (1-0) defeated South Korea (0-1) 92-68.
In other games today, Latvia (1-0) downed Canada (0-1) 65-54 and Mozambique will play host Thailand in Group A. Group B contests feature Argentina against Mali and Belgium faces China; in Group D Japan takes on Germany and Columbia goes up against Spain.
Following the preliminary round, all teams will advance to the July 24 round of 16. The winners of the round of 16 will advance to the July 26 medal quarterfinals, and the losers will play out for ninth-16th places. The semifinals will be played on July 27, and the gold and bronze medal games on July 28.
Walz is being assisted by collegiate head coaches Natasha Adair (Delaware) and Cori Close (UCLA).
Originally known as the FIBA Junior World Championship, the tournament was held every four years starting in 1985. FIBA changed its calendar in 2005 and now conducts the U19 World Cup every other year.
Including its victory over Australia today, USA women’s teams are 80-13 in U19/Junior World Cups and own a record seven gold medals in addition to one silver medal and one bronze medal in the 12 previous U19 World Cups.