USA U19 Women Sail Past Hungary 95-50, Advance to Round of 16 Unbeaten
All 12 team members scored to help the USA Women’s U19 World Cup Team (3-0) sail past Hungary (1-2) 95-50 to close preliminary round play at the FIBA U19 World Cup on Tuesday afternoon in Bangkok, Thailand.
The U.S. will next play Germany (0-3), the No. 4 seeded team out of Group D, in its July 24 round of 16 match-up (time TBD). The game will be available live online at Facebook.com/USABasketball or YouTube.com/FIBA.
Rhyne Howard (Kentucky/Cleveland, Tenn.) scored a game-high 18 points on 4-of-7 shooting from 3 and 6-of-6 from the free throw line; Paige Bueckers (Hopkins H.S./St. Louis Park, Minn.) hit 5-of-7 from the field in scoring 13 points and dished out six of the team’s 20 assists; Francesca Belibi (Regis H.S./Centennial, Colo.) tallied 11 points and 13 rebounds; and Aliyah Boston (Worcester Academy, Mass./St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.) registered 10 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the field. Additionally, Naz Hillmon-Baker (Michigan/Cleveland, Ohio) came within a point of a double-double after registering nine points and 10 caroms.
“I was really pleased with our effort today,” said Jeff Walz, USA U19 and University of Louisville head coach. “Offensively we were much better. We stopped dribbling the ball so much, which has been a problem for us all through training camp. We’ve got players who are the best on their high school teams, the best on their college teams and they have to dribble on those teams in order for something good to happen. That’s against what we’re trying to get them to do. We want fewer dribbles, more passing and find the open player early. In the first two games we did a very poor job of that. I thought today was much better, and you could see it on the offensive end.
“Rhyne and Paige have been very consistent with the way they’ve started games, and that’s encouraging,” added Walz. “What we’ve got to get them do now is to come out in the third quarter and be just as consistent, play like they have in the first half and assert themselves. But, I’m very pleased with the way those two have been playing.”
“I take pride in that, being a playmaker for my team,” said Bueckers who is averaging 6.3 assists and just 1.7 turnovers per game through three games. “I always put others before myself and I don’t care about my individual scoring. I just want to do whatever it takes to help the team win. And if that’s getting everybody involved and making my teammates better, that’s what I’ll do.”
In the first quarter, the USA jumped ahead 5-0, but Hungary took the lead, 12-9 with 6:21 to play. Hailey Van Lith (Cashmere H.S./Wenatchee, Wash.) was fouled on a made drive to the basket with 6:21 to play and completed the and-one to tie the game 12-12. The USA reclaimed the lead after a jump shot by Queen Egbo (Baylor/Houston, Texas) at 5:21 to play to put the U.S. ahead 14-12.
The USA never again trailed.
Further, the Van Lith 3-point play sparked a 24-4 scoring run that ended on a long-range, buzzer-beating Bueckers 3-pointer to end the first quarter with the Americans firmly in command, 33-16.
“I just kind of threw it up there and hoped it went in,” said Bueckers. “And it did. I think that helped keep everyone’s energy up.
“We’ve been waiting for a strong start to a game since we’ve started playing together,” added Bueckers, who had 11 points and five assists by the end of the first quarter. “We haven’t had a full game together yet where we’ve played our best the whole time. So, it was really nice to get out there and do that today.”
The USA’s defense held Hungary to a frigid 2-of-19 shooting in the second quarter while its offense outscored the Europeans 24-4 to put the game out of reach at halftime, 57-20.
“We know that if we play the right way now, then we’ll do it in a close game,” said Howard, who scored all of her 18 points in the first half. “So, we had to keep that on our minds, so that we stay prepared for if we have a close game. We need to keep playing for each other and looking to get our teammates shots instead of playing a one-on-one game.”
The USA eased up in the second half, winning the third period by 22-19 and the fourth quarter 16-11 to close out the game.
“We talked to them about it in the locker room,” said Walz on how he kept his team focused. “We’ve got to take advantage of every minute, every possession that we get because of the fact that we don’t have a whole bunch of practice time. So, in a game like this where we’re up a pretty comfortable amount, we’ve got to be able to use those minutes like our practice in order to continue to improve.”
Cameron Brink (Southridge H.S./Beaverton, Ore.) was credited for three blocked shots as the team set a USA U19 women’s single-game record with 11 blocked shots. The previous record was nine, set by the 1989 and 2015 USA teams.
In total, USA dominated the glass by a 60-32 margin, outscored Hungary 52-18 points in the paint, 39-19 points off the bench and 22-7 second-chance points. The USA finished the day shooting a red-hot 55.6% (20-36 FGs) from the field, while limiting Hungary to a mere 22.9% (8-35 FGs) shooting.
“It’s good for our confidence, but as of right now it’s 0-0 because if we lose, we won’t get a chance to play for a gold medal,” said Bueckers on heading into the knockout phase of the tournament undefeated. “So, we just have to keep moving forward and getting wins.”
“We need to work on knowing the plays better, making our free throws, getting better on defense and communicating throughout the whole game,” added Howard on her team’s focus moving forward.
All teams will advance to the July 24 round of 16, where teams will be seeded based on final preliminary round standings. 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.
In today's other Group C game, Australia (2-1) defeated South Korea (0-3) 78-59 to finish second in the group.
In Group A, Canada (2-1) downed host Thailand (0-3) 75-49 and Latvia (3-0) remained perfect with a 68-54 win over Mozambique (1-2).
In Group B, China (1-1) faces Argentina (1-1) and Belgium (2-0) takes on Mali (0-2); while Group D games feature a contest between Colombia (1-1) and Japan (1-1) while Germany (0-2) meets up with Spain (2-0).
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 three wins in Bangkok, USA women’s teams are now 82-13 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.