(Courtesy USA Basketball) - Outscoring its opponent 47-26 in the second half, the 2017 USA Women’s U19 World Cup Team (1-0) opened FIBA U19 World Cup play in strong fashion by running away with a 95-58 victory over Mali (0-1) on Saturday evening in Udine, Italy.
UConn newcomer Megan Walker scored 15 points while rising sophomore Crystal Dangerfield added 10 points in the win.
Alecia Sutton (Texas/St. Louis, Mo.) led the way with a game-best 19 points, Chennedy Carter (Timberview H.S./Mansfield, Texas) scored 14 points and dished out four assists. Joyner Holmes (Texas/Cedar Hill, Texas) checked in for a near double-double with nine points and a game-high 10 caroms.
Next up for the USA is a July 23 contest against China (1-0) and the Americans close preliminary play July 25 against host Italy (0-1)
“It's a great start to the tournament,” said USA U19 and University of Pittsburgh head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio. “We got contributions from each and every player. There was a lot of energy defensively. Our players stayed in plays and challenged shots. We did a great job on the boards. Offensively, being able to put 95 points on the board was a great sign for this team and a great start to this tournament. This is something that we believed this team is capable of doing, so it was great to see them do it today”
Mali put up the game’s first points and led for 12 seconds before the USA scored the next six points to take the lead for good. Leading 8-7, the U.S. put together an 11-2 run and with 2:12 remaining in the first quarter, owned a 10-point, 19-9 advantage, and when the quarter ended, the USA’s cushion was 23-14.
The African squad opened the second quarter with a 7-0 spurt, its biggest run of the game, to edge within two points, 23-21, with 8:31 remaining in the first half. That’s when Sutton picked up her first buckets of the game with a jumper, followed by a 3-pointer at 7:00. That sparked a 15-2 USA run, which was bookended by another five points from Sutton, and left the American women on top 38-23. After a 6-point spurt by Mali, the red, white and blue again went to work and closed the half on a 10-3 run and headed to the locker room up 48-32.
Coming out of the break both teams swapped scores and with 6:44 left in the third period, the USA’s lead was 17 points, 55-38. However, spurred by the scoring from five different athletes, the USA outscored Mali 18-3 over the ensuing five minutes to put the game out of reach, 73-41.
“Mali came out ready to play,” said Walker, who shot 7-of-14 from the field. “We will get everybody’s best, every night. I think we shared the ball well tonight. We played together as a team and that helped us expand the gap.”
At the end of the third quarter the score was 75-45 and the USA outscored Mali 20-13 in the fourth quarter to bring the score to its final.
The USA, which dished out 23 assists, shot 43.4 percent (36-83 FGs) from the floor and 34.8 percent (8-23 3pt FGs) from behind the 3-point arc, while limiting Mali to 35.4 percent (23-65 FGs) from the field. The U.S. won the battle on the glass 58-35, including a 22-8 advantage on the offensive boards, which resulted in 20 second-chance points for the red, white and blue. Additionally, the USA outscored Mali 16-4 in transition and 40-20 from bench players.
Adama Coulibaly was the top scorer for Mali with 13 points.
In the other Group A game today, China defeated Italy 74-63. In Group B, Russia (1-0) raced past Egypt (0-1) 114-63 and Spain (1-0) downed Puerto Rico (0-1) 74-42; Group C saw Canada (1-0) take down South Korea (0-1) 91-45 and France (1-0) held off Latvia (0-1) 69-60; while in Group D Japan (1-0) upset Australia (0-1) 66-61 and Hungary (1-0) defeated Mexico (0-1) 111-67.
Following the preliminary round, teams will be seeded according to group play, and all participating teams will advance to the July 26 round of 16. Winners will advance to the July 28 medal quarterfinals, while the remaining teams will continue playing out for classification. The medal semifinals will be held July 29, and the gold and bronze medal games are slated for July 30.
McConnell-Serio is being assisted by collegiate head coaches Kamie Ethridge from the University of Northern Colorado and Charlotte Smith from Elon University.