USA Women's U19 World Cup Team Bests Spain 74-53 in First International Exhibition
The USA Women’s U19 World Cup Team got its first taste of international basketball in Guadalajara, Spain as it took on host Spain in an exhibition match up on Friday, winning the battle 74-53. The USA is preparing to defend it’s gold medal at the FIBA Women’s U19 Wold Cup in Debrecen, Hungary.
After a tight first quarter where the two teams were tied 16-16, the USA pulled ahead in the second quarter 40-31 to secure a nine-point lead heading into halftime. Caitlin Clark (University of Iowa) led the USA in the first half with eight points and two steals, while Lauren Betts (Grandview H.S./Centennial, Col.) added eight points and six rebounds in the opening half.
Things opened up for the Americans in the third quarter with consistent scoring and stifling defense as they closed the third quarter on a 10-0 run to secure a 56-36 lead entering the final stanza. The USA carried that run into the fourth quarter capping a 16-0 run early in the fourth, to eventually help lead them to the win over Spain.
“I think that it was a good first game, I'll say that,” said USA head coach Cori Close (UCLA). “We had some bright spots and in the way that we adjusted. I thought Lauren Ware (University of Arizona/Bismark, ND) and Betts gave us some really good inside presence. I thought we did a good job getting downhill off the balance and not settling for 3s.”
A balanced offense helped lead the USA with nine players scoring in the game. Betts led the way with a game-high 14 points and game-high-tying nine rebounds. Clark finished with 12 points, three rebounds and team-high three steals. The Americans also had strong contributions from Payton Verhulst (Louisville University/De Soto, Kan.), who recorded 11 points, nine rebounds and two steals, while Te-Hina Paopao (University of Oregon/Oceanside, Calif.) added nine points, nine rebounds and one steal.
“It's a matter of we really have to control possessions,” said Close. “I think that the problem (in training camp) was that we didn't do it with the offensive side of the ball. We gave up way too many possessions on careless turnovers, trying to thread the needle. I love that it didn't just come from our bigs today, Payton (Verhulst) having those rebounds, (Te-Hina) Paopao, and I think that's got to be something that's consistent.”
The U.S. owned a 54-30 rebounding advantage and forced Spain into 18 turnovers that were converted into 23 points for the USA. The U.S. also outscored Australia in the paint (46-22), in second chance points (16-7) and off the bench (30-25).
“I think it went really well,” said Betts. “We struggled in the first half a little bit, but then we picked it up really in the second half. I think our communication just really pulled through for us today and our rebounding. We really used our length to our advantage, so I think it was a really big team effort today.
“It all comes down to defense. We were trying to get as many kills as we can defensively, so I think it comes down to getting stops, and that goes with communication, and just staying poised,” added Betts. “I think our defense just stepped it up with aggression and was just really helpful with our defensive stops today.
The Americans will again play Spain in two additional exhibition games, Saturday, July 31 at 1 p.m. EDT and August 2 at 6 a.m. EDT.
The USA’s assistant coaches are Aaron Johnston (South Dakota State) and Joni Taylor (Georgia).
FIBA World Cup
Featuring U19 teams from 16 nations, the 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup qualified nations include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, France, host Hungary, Italy, Japan, Mali, Russia, South Korea, Spain and the USA.
The USA will open play against Italy on Aug. 7 at 2:30 p.m. EDT, followed by Australia on Aug. 8 at 2:00 p.m. EDT and cap preliminary play against Egypt on Aug. 10 sat 2:30 p.m. EDT.
The reigning FIBA U19 World Cup gold medalist, USA women’s teams have won eight gold medals, one silver medal and one bronze medal while compiling an 86-13 overall record in U19 World Cup play since the event was launched in 1985. Even more impressive, the USA has posted a 62-3 record and won seven of the past eight U19 golds since 2005.