USA Women Rout Spain 98-64 to Advance to FIBA U19 World Cup Semifinals
The USA women (5-0) earned a convincing 98-64 win over Spain (3-2) in the quarterfinals of the 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup on Friday evening in Debrecen, Hungary.
The USA will meet host Hungary (4-1) in the semifinals at 11:30 a.m. (all times listed are EDT) on Aug. 14. The other semifinal will feature Australia (4-1) – Mali (4-1) at 2:30 p.m. EDT on Aug. 14.
The semifinal winners will play in the gold medal game at 2:30 p.m. on Aug. 15, while the losers will play in the bronze medal game at 11:30 a.m. on Aug. 15.
With a 15-point halftime lead, the USA outscored Spain 29-14 in the third quarter to secure the win early.
“We got fouled on the first four possessions, because we were really focused on getting the ball inside,” said USA head coach Cori Close. “We were doing things together and with a purpose. And this team, that's how they are best – is when they know what they're looking for and they know how to set each other up for success.
“We had one little lapse in the middle of the second half, but for the most part, we're getting more and more consistent as the tournament goes along.”
Caitlin Clark (Iowa/West Des Moines, Iowa) finished with 17 points, including 6-of-6 from the free throw line; Lauren Betts (Grandview H.S./Centennial, Colo.) scored 16 points and to go with eight rebounds; Sonia Citron (The Ursuline School/Scarsdale, N.Y.) tallied 15 points, including 7-of-7 from the free throw line, and seven rebounds; Diamond Johnson (NC State/Philadelphia, Pa.) had 13 points and four assists; Payton Verhulst (Bishop Miege/De Soto, Kan.) contributed 13 points and five rebounds; and Te-Hina Paopao (Oregon/Oceanside, Calif.) rounded out the double-digit scorers with 11 points and a game-high seven assists.
“I think we definitely knew the type of pressure they were going to give us, and that's definitely what we practiced,” Betts said. “It's all about us being poised and staying organized. I think our point guards did a great job of that today, just keeping us organized as a team. Spain’s pressure sometimes can get in the way of how we want to play, but I think we really took control today, so that was really important.”
The USA twice beat Spain in exhibition play, including 74-53 on July 30 and 79-59 on July 31.
In today’s quarterfinal game, the USA jumped out to a 20-4 lead after a 9-0 run culminated with a score from Johnson at 4:35. Spain responded with a 7-0 run to make it 23-16, but the USA closed 7-2 to lead 30-18 after the first period. The USA was 10-of-11 from the free throw line in the frame.
Spain opened the second quarter with a 9-3 stretch to pull within six points, 33-27, at 6:46, but the USA pushed its lead back to double-digits and led 50-35 at halftime.
Clark, who made a 3-pointer for the final score of the first half, had 12 points at the midway point, while Betts had 11 and Verhulst had 10 points.
While the USA shot 57.7% from the field in the first half (15-26 FGs), its defense held Spain to 35.9% shooting (14-39 FGs).
Spain scored the first points of the second half, but the USA’s lead only grew from there. The USA put together a 10-0 stretch during the period and outscored Spain 29-14 in the stanza to end any hope Spain had for a comeback.
“I think we got better at handling pressure, because the first time we placed them, the pressure was stopping our offense,” Johnson said. “So coach Cori, coach Joni (Taylor) and coach A.J. (Aaron Johnston), they talked to us about organizing against their pressure and playing against their pressure, and we just adjusted. We know Spain is a good team at pressuring the ball, so we had to run an offense in order to get to win.”
The USA headed into the fourth quarter with a 79-49 advantage, and the Americas put up 19 points to Spain’s 15 to bring the game to its 98-64 final.
Overall, the USA outrebounded Spain 42-27 and was 24-of-28 from the free throw line (.857), compared to Spain’s 3-of-6 from the line.
“We're just all super pumped right now,” Betts said of the team’s mood on the eve of the semifinal matchup versus Hungary. “We are super ready to go. So, I think our team knows we're willing to do whatever it takes. I think everyone individually contributes something on our team. That’s what makes this team special, is that we work well together, but I think everyone's going to sacrifice whatever they can to help the team win.”
Also today, the other medal quarterfinals saw Australia defeat Canada (2-3) 72-61, Mali won against Russia (4-1) 69-47 and Hungary beat Czech Republic (3-2) 78-71.
In the games to determine ninth-16th places, Japan (2-3) beat Taiwan (0-5) 111-42, Italy (2-3) topped Brazil (0-5) 71-43, France (4-1) beat Argentina (1-4) 64-39 and Egypt (1-4) edged past South Korea (1-4) 63-62.