USA Women's U19 World Cup Team Claims 79-59 win over Spain in Second Exhibition Contest
Facing Spain in its second exhibition in as many days, the USA Women’s U19 World Cup Team played another physical contest, used its length and won all four quarters en route to a 79-59 victory.
Both teams opened the game trading buckets in the first quarter. Spain led most of the way until the USA scored the final seven points of the opening stanza to move ahead 22-19. The Americans carried this run into the second quarter, scoring 15-straight points to lead 30-19 at the 7:35 mark in the second period.
Spain rallied to only trail by six points (44-38) heading into halftime. Jewel Spear (Wake Forest/The Colony, Texas) had a solid first half with eight points, two assists and one steal, and Lauren Betts (Grandview H.S./Centennial, Colo.) added eight points and four rebounds.
Strong defense by the USA was the story in the second half, holding Spain to just 12 points in the third quarter and nine points in the fourth, while outscoring Spain 35-21 in the second half to help secure the 20-point win.
“We had some really good moments today,” said USA head coach Cori Close (UCLA). “Credit to Spain, I thought their pressure got to us a little bit, and we made some adjustments in the second half. But that's going to be something we need to address moving forward, how we really value the basketball, move the basketball safely and create easier opportunities for each other. We weren't as patient, and we weren't as tough at taking care of the ball, so we've got to address that and move forward from there.”
The USA had nine players score in the game with three players recording double-digit efforts. The Americans were led by Payton Verhulst (Louisville/De Soto, Kan.) with 14 points, a team-high seven rebounds and team-high four steals. Betts added 13 points, six rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots, while Diamond Johnson (North Carolina State/Philadelphia, Pa.) chipped in 11 points and a game-high seven assists. Te-Hina Paopao (Oregon/Oceanside, Calif.) also had a strong showing tallying nine points, three rebounds and two steals.
“We definitely got off to a little bit of a rough start, but we had a really good talk with coach Cori at halftime,” said Verhulst. “She got us started and really just said we wanted to focus on going out there and playing our game and not being so reliant on our point guards just bringing it down with all the pressure that they were having. But you know, giving them a little bit of a break and getting some easy buckets.
“I definitely have been putting a lot of emphasis on rebounding playing with USA, because a lot of times when I'm going in and having to play that four position I'm not necessarily used to it,” added Verhulst. “So, I know that maybe I'm not going to be needed as much on offense, so I'm going to go all out and get every rebound I can on defense.”
The U.S. forced Spain into 19 turnovers that were converted into 25 points and outscored Spain in the paint 42-30. The U.S. also held the advantage on fast-break points (26-19) and recorded 12 steals in the game.
“I really liked Payton's (Verhulst) response, especially in the second half,” stated Close. “I thought she was a really good leader on both ends of the floor. I really challenged them at halftime with our consistency of effort in concentration and I thought Payton really led the way with that response in the second half.
“We have to look at who's really stepped up, what have teams struggled with? Well, they struggle with Lauren Betts, and the guard’s responsibility is that good things happen when she touches it, and she's really good about it when she's doubled going inside out,” added Close. “So, I think guards have a responsibility as good as a shooting team as we have, and we shot it pretty well especially in the first half, we’ve got to really let our forwards touch it a little bit more.”
The Americans will again play Spain in a final exhibition game on Monday, August 2 at 6 a.m. EDT before heading to Hungary to compete in the 2021 FIBA Women’s U19 World Cup.
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.