Another Strong Defensive Effort Propels USA U16 Women Past Argentina 115-36
-- U.S. Advances to Quarterfinals as No. 1 Seed From Group B --
The USA Women’s U16 National Team (3-0) rode a 23-0 game-opening run to a dominating 115-36 victory over Argentina (1-2) at the 2021 FIBA Americas U16 Championship on Wednesday night in Leon, Mexico. The preliminary round win, which saw six players finish in double-digit scoring, advances the U.S. to the medal round as the No. 1 team from Group B. The team will face Costa Rica (0-3), which finished fourth in Group A, in the Aug. 27 quarterfinals (time TBD).
“It feels great,” said Delaney Thomas (St. John's College H.S./Charles Town, W.Va.), who put up the game’s lone double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, on the team being 3-0 heading into the medal round. “This team is awesome to play with and it’s a bunch of fun, we’re just out there having fun together.”
For the third time in as many games, JuJu Watkins (Sierra Canyon High School/Los Angeles, Calif.) paced the USA’s scoring effort after notching 17 points. She also added five rebounds, four assists, four steals and three blocked shots.
Maggie Mendelson (Fremont H.S./North Ogden, Utah), who hit 10-of-12 from the charity stripe, finished with 16 points and seven boards; Jada Williams (La Jolla Country Day/San Diego, Calif.) scored her 15 points in the first half and dished out a game-high nine assists; Jadyn Donovan (Sidwell Friends School, D.C./Upper Marlboro, Md.) tallied 14 points and six caroms; and Olivia Olson (Benilde-St. Margaret's/New Hope, Minn.) chipped in 10 points.
“Here at USA Basketball, you’re playing for the name across your chest and not only did Jada have double figures (in points), but she was one assist shy of a double-double,” said USA head coach Sue Phillips (Archbishop Mitty H.S., Calif.). “She did a really nice job of managing our team and was an aggressive player looking to score, keeping the defense on their toes. Delaney had a double-double with points and rebounds, so that was great to see, and JuJu played a fantastic game. She shot 67 percent from the floor and really filled up the stats sheet.”
Olson netted back-to-back 3s in the first 14 seconds of action and the USA was off and running. After three minutes had expired, all five starters were on the board and the lead was 14-0. In all, seven players put up points in the 23-0 run. By that point, Argentina had missed all six of its shot attempts, while the USA was 8-of-14 (.571).
“I was very happy with our defensive intensity from the jump,” said Phillips. “We’re clearly demonstrating a pattern of starting games with an intense defensive mindset and it’s really sparking our offense, which is putting numbers on the scoreboard at a high clip.”
After Argentina connected on its first field goal at 3:59, the USA scored nine unanswered points, and a second bucket from Argentina brought the first quarter to an end with the North Americans in complete control 32-4.
In the first quarter alone, the USA’s defensive effort held Argentina to 16.7% (2-12 FGs) shooting from the field, and forced 15 turnovers, which the U.S. offense converted into 15 points. In contrast, the USA shot 44.0% (11-25 FGs), had 10 steals, eight assists and six fast-break points.
Argentina was unable to keep pace as the USA took the second quarter 30-13 for a 62-17 halftime lead and outscored the South Americans 26-5 in the third quarter and 27-14 in the final stanza.
“We are really pleased with our full-court pressure,” added Phillips. “In the third quarter we played exclusively in the half court, and we held them to two field goals. It was great to see us put in a defensive effort that demonstrated our ability to defend both in the full court and in the half court.”
The USA’s defense held Argentina, which scored 58 points against Mexico and 69 against Chile, to the lowest scoring output of its three games. The U.S. capped the night shooting 42.7% (38-89 FGs) from the field, 38.9% (7-18 3pt FGs) and 72.7% (32-44 FTs) from the line, while Argentina was held to a frigid 22.8% (13-57 FGs) of their field goal attempts, including 10% (1-10 3pt FGs) from beyond the arc.
“I don’t think I’ve ever played with a team that cares about each other so much,” said Williams. “We’re so excited for each other’s success. We just come out there 12 deep and we know that all 12 are going to bring something. In practices and meetings, we talk about (the fact that) no one has to do it all, but everyone has to give it their all. We know that everyone is going to contribute. Every time we step on the court, we know we’re about business and we came here for one goal and one goal only, and that’s what we’re focused on.”
The USA outrebounded Argentina 67-38, including 29-9 on the offensive end. In all, the USA closed out the contest with 50 points on 35 Argentine turnovers, while allowing Argentina just seven points from the red, white and blue’s 12 miscues. The North Americans outscored Argentina 56-22 points in the paint, 27-9 on second chance points, 16-6 points on the fast break and 59-24 points off the bench.
Following tonight’s final preliminary round game, all eight teams will advance to the quarterfinals, 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.
With six games in seven days, teams can become tired. However, the USA coaching staff has spread out the minutes over the first three games with players seeing between 14-19 minutes a contest.
“It’s two-fold,” explained Phillips on spreading out the minutes. “One, we are trying to monitor the mileage on the legs and two, I think there’s no substitute for game experience. So, allowing all 12 players to get quality minutes in each of these three games bodes well for us going into single-elimination games.”
“Our depth is definitely one of our advantages,” she said. “We’re 12 deep and we play hard when we’re in there. But we also know that we’re going to give it our all in those three minutes or four minutes, however long we’re in there, and then we can take our break.”
In addition to the shared minutes, the U.S. has seven players averaging between 10.0 points and 19.7 points a game, while the remaining five athletes are averaging between 5.0 and 8.3 points a game.
“We spread the ball around,” Phillips said. “It is intentional. Kudos to our team for sharing the basketball and playing a high-level brand of basketball.”
“Our depth is really important because we’re all super-talented,” Thomas concluded. “Our team having that depth is going to be really important down the stretch. Just having each other’s back, being there for each other is going to be important.”
In Group A action, Canada (3-0) remained unbeaten with a 102-50 victory over Puerto Rico (2-1) and Brazil (1-2) picked up its first win after downing Costa Rica (0-3) 73-31. Host Mexico (1-1) takes on Chile (0-2) in Group B’s final game, which tips at 9:30 p.m. EDT.
The top four finishing 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 33-1 in FIBA Americas U16 Championship action.