USA U16 Women Overpower Mexico for 126-43 Victory
Six U.S. Players Score in Double Digits as All 12 Again Score
Reeling off the game’s first 16 points, the USA Women’s U16 National Team (2-0) took control of the game early in a 126-43 rout of host Mexico (1-1) at the 2021 FIBA Americas U16 Championship on Tuesday night in Leon, Mexico. JuJu Watkins (Sierra Canyon H.S./Los Angeles, Calif.) scored a game-high 21 points as all 12 U.S. team members put points on the board.
Watkins, who played 16:13, hit 8-of-14 from the field and shot a USA U16 single-game record-tying 5-of-5 from the foul line. A total of six North Americans scored in double digits, including Delaney Thomas (St. John's College H.S./Charles Town, W.Va.), who scored 14 points after hitting 5-of-6 from the field and 4-of-4 from the line; Breya Cunningham (La Jolla Country Day School/Chula Vista, Calif.) and Olivia Olson (Benilde-St. Margaret's/New Hope, Minn.) scored 13 points apiece; KK Arnold (Germantown H.S./Germantown, Wis.) notched 12 points and Kendall Dudley (Sidwell Friends School, D.C./Manassas Park, Va.) chipped in 11 points.
“Our goal is to grow every day,” said Watkins. “Even though there might be a gap between our team and the other team, we’re looking at getting better every day and making the defensive effort and making the rotations even if we’re up by a lot. We don’t want to let up because we’re preparing for other games.”
Maggie Mendelson (Fremont H.S./North Ogden, Utah) and Thomas pulled down eight rebounds apiece.
“We were really great defensively to start the game,” said USA head coach Sue Phillips (Archbishop Mitty H.S., Calif.). “We created a lot of havoc and turnovers and converted at a pretty high clip. So, I was not surprised by the way they started the game, and that’s a reflection of the depth and talent on this roster. Looking at the level of talent that we have, and we’ve talked about it as a team, when they play harder than their opponents, smarter and together as a team, this team can be really special.”
As a team, the USA’s 34-of-45 shooting from the line established new U.S. U16 single-game records for most free throws made and attempted.
The U.S. won the tip and with just 11 seconds expired on the clock Olson netted a 3-pointer. That sparked the USA’s 16-0 opening run, which featured points from seven different players, including eight from Watkins.
“Coach wanted us to play hard right from the get-go,” said Olson. “I thought we stepped up, played hard together, and moved the ball really well. It’s hard to come back from a 16-0 deficit and we kept the pressure on them the rest of the game.”
After Mexico got on the board with its first field goal of the contest, the USA closed out the first quarter on a 15-3 run to own a commanding 37-5 lead after the first 10 minutes of play.
Any comeback hopes were quickly put to rest as the USA expanded its lead to 50-7 midway through the second quarter. Arnold scored a layup with 2:09 before the midway break to make the score 59-14, becoming the USA’s 12th scorer in the game. From there, the red, white and blue outscored Mexico 6-2 to close out the half with a 65-16 lead.
By the half, the USA owned a 43-13 rebounding advantage, including 22-1 on the offensive glass, scored 24 points off of Mexico’s 22 turnovers, outscored Mexico 16-0 on second-chance points, 8-1 points on the fast break and 32-11 points off the bench. Further, the U.S. shot 42.6% (23-54 FGs) from the field in the first half and held its neighbors to the south to an icy 22.2% (6-27 FGs).
Mexico never threatened as the USA won the third quarter 30-14 and the fourth 31-13.
“We understand the bigger picture here,” added Phillips on the team not letting up in the second half. “We’re trying to get better every game. So, if we just cash it in because we picked up the W, we’re failing ourselves in that process of trying to get better for the entire 40 minutes with each game.”
The U.S. closed the game shooting 50.6% (43-85 FGs) from the floor and holding Mexico to 29.5% (18-61 FGs) shooting. Closing the game with a 62-29 rebounding advantage, with a 26-8 advantage on the offensive glass, the U.S. dished out 22 assists, had 22 steals and only 10 turnovers. Forcing Mexico into 34 turnovers, from which the USA scored 39 points, the U.S. outscored Mexico 64-28 points in the paint, 21-1 points on the break and 66-15 points off the bench.
“We’ve been working on getting steals and rotations on defense when we’re pressing, just communicating better and I thought we did that really well tonight,” added Olson on what her team worked on in the second half.
Following the preliminary round, all eight teams will advance to the quarterfinals on Aug. 27, and those winners will meet in the semifinals on Aug. 28. The semifinal winners will play in the gold medal game at 9:30 p.m. EDT on Aug. 29, and the semifinals losers will meet in the bronze medal game at 6:30 p.m. EDT on Aug. 29.
The free throw percentage record Watkins tied is shared with Aliyah Boston and Asia Durr, who hit that mark in 2017 and 2013, respectively. The previous records for free throws made and attempted were 23 and 37. The 2009 and 2019 USA teams hit 23 free throws in a single game and the 2017 USA squad attempted 37.
In the evening’s other Group B game, Argentina (1-1) defeated Chile (0-2) 69-53. In Group A action, Canada (2-0) cruised past Costa Rica (0-2) 112-25 and Puerto Rico (2-0) defeated Brazil (0-2) 74-67.
The top four teams will qualify for the 2022 FIBA U17 World Cup.
The USA’s assistant coaches are Tom McConnell (Indiana University Pennsylvania) and Sophia Witherspoon (Fort Pierce Central H.S., Fla.).
A biennial event launched in 2009 and open to athletes 16 years old or younger, the FIBA Americas U16 Championship features eight national teams from North, South and Central America and the Caribbean. The USA Basketball women claimed the gold medal in 2009, 2011, 2013, 2017 and 2019 and the bronze medal in 2015 currently own an all-time record of 32-1 in FIBA Americas U16 Championship action.