USA Women Open FIBA U19 World Cup Action With 96-37 Wire-to-Wire Win Over Italy
The USA Women’s U19 World Cup Team (1-0) got out to a quick lead in the first quarter versus Italy (0-1) and never looked back en route to a decisive 96-37 wire-to-wire win in its opening game of the 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup in Debrecen, Hungary.
The USA showed its depth with all 12 players scoring in the game and five players finishing with double-digit scoring efforts. Sonia Citron (The Ursuline School/Scarsdale, N.Y.) led the way with 15 points, and seven rebounds and Jewel Spear (Wake Forest University/The Colony, Texas) finished with 14 points (4-of-5 3FG), three rebounds, three assists and two steals. Caitlin Clark (University of Iowa/West Des Moines, Ia.) added 13 points, four rebounds and four assists, Lauren Betts (Grandview H.S./Centennial Colo.) tallied 12 points, and two rebounds and Diamond Johnson (NC State/Philadelphia, Pa.) contributed 11 points and six assists. Te-Hina Paopao (University of Oregon/Oceanside, Calif.) also had eight points, a team-high-tying seven rebounds, a team-high seven assists and three steals.
The Americans closed out the first quarter on a 10-2 run in the last 3:50 to lead by 16 points (27-11) heading into the second quarter.
The USA continued that run in the second quarter with tenacious defensive, smart passing and efficient shooting, outscoring Italy 21-3 and going on a 31-5 run in the final 13:50 of the half. The USA held Italy without a field goal in the second quarter for the first 8:33.
Spear led the USA in the first half with 11 points (3-of-4 3pt FGs), two assists and two steals. Citron added 10 points and six rebounds to help the USA to a 34-point lead at halftime (48-14). The USA shot 6-of-12 (.500) from 3-point in the first half, while also recording 29 rebounds and nine steals.
“Defense is our main focus right now,” said Spear. “We know we can all score on offense, so we just all locked in individually and as a team and I thought we did really good on defense today.”
The USA made it tough for Italy to score with its length and quickness on the defensive end. The Americans forced the Italians to 23 turnovers in the game, leading to 31 points.
“I thought we played with much more urgency, and we played harder for longer stretches of time, and I think that’s the biggest thing I was pleased with in the first half,” said USA head coach Cori Close (UCLA). “I especially liked how many consecutive stops we got. I thought our defense really fueled our offense. We got easy buckets because we were defending, and we were just really playing hard, so that's really where it starts. You can build and grow a lot of different ways as long as you play really hard, and you start on the defensive end.”
The USA didn’t ease up in the second half, outscoring Italy 24-13 in the third quarter and 24-10 in the fourth quarter. The Americans opened the final stanza on a 10-0 run that helped them seal their 59-point victory. Clark scored seven of her 13 points in the final 10-minutes of the game.
“It was great just to finally get out there and play with my team,” said Citron. “I thought it was a great group effort, everyone did really well and just excited to finally be playing. We were just really getting after it, talking, communicating, and making sure we secured the edge with our rebounds. We were just being really physical and having a lot of energy on the defensive end.”
The USA won the rebounding differential 51-28, and it outscored Italy in the paint 42-16. The USA also outscored Italy in bench scoring 50-17 and fast break points 16-3. The Americans totaled 12 steals in the game and shot 11-of-22 (.500) from beyond the arc.
“My teammates were driving and kicking the ball, and we had really good ball rotation, said Spear. “When I was open, I just had the confidence to shoot it and make it. It felt really good to go out there with my teammates and battle, and I thought it was a good team win.”
The USA’s assistant coaches are Aaron Johnston (South Dakota State) and Joni Taylor (Georgia).
The USA play Australia next 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 87-13 overall record in U19 World Cup play since the event was launched in 1985. Even more impressive, the USA has posted a 63-3 record and won seven of the past eight U19 golds since 2005.