July 23, 2013
Panevezys, Lithuania (Courtesy USA Basketball) - Breanna Stewart scored 14 points and had a pair of blocked shots, Morgan Tuck (Connecticut / Bolingbrook, Ill.) finished with 13 points and four steals while Moriah Jefferson (Connecticut) dished seven assists to lead the USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team to an 88-54 victory over Canada on Tuesday night in Paneyezys, Lithuania.
Already qualified for the quarterfinals, the USA’s final second round game will determine whether it advances as the No. 1 or No. 2 seed from Group F as the American women meet up against also-unbeaten France (5-0) on July 24 (1:15 p.m. EDT). The top four finishing teams in each second round group will advance to the Quarterfinals, which will be played on July 26. The semifinals will be held on July 27 and the finals on July 28, both of which will be streamed live online by ESPN3.
“At the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half, we played great,” said USA U19 and University of Miami head coach Katie Meier. “It took us a little bit of time to establish ourselves and our tempo. It was a nine-point game there close to the end of the second quarter and we pushed it to 16 at halftime. Then, our starters were taking care of business at the start of the third quarter. A 31-point third quarter, when points were hard to come by tonight, I thought that was the difference in the game.”
Canada got on the board first with a free throw at 9:20 and at 8:03, tied the score at 3-all. However, Tuck hit a pair of free throws to put the U.S. in front for good. That was followed by a 3-pointer and layup from Jones to bump the USA’s lead to 10-3, but Canada would not back down. Closely matching the USA’s energy and tenacity, Canada kept up the pace and the U.S. was able to extend its lead to just nine, 25-16, after Bashaara Graves got a buzzer-beating put-back.
“They were very physical; you could tell they scouted us very well,” said Bashaara Graves. “It was kind of hard to go through our plays and made it hard for people who usually get their shots off, to get good shots. They were definitely ready to run with us. We didn’t get as many transition points as we usually do. This was our lowest scoring game. They knew exactly how we played, especially since we played against them before (in the Canary Islands). It was kind of hard.”
Following a Canada bucket to open the second quarter, the USA went on a 10-2 run to jump in front by 15 points, 35-20 at 7:25. But Canada began chipping away at the USA’s advantage and with 4:09 to play before halftime managed to cut it to 39-31.
After Canada closed to 10 points, Meier called for a time out to regroup.
“We were getting out worked,” said Meier on why she called for time. “I really thought all the 50-50 plays, all the hustle plays, were going in Canada’s favor. It started on fake effort on their penetration. We were flying at the ball, but we weren’t disciplined in our closeouts at all. They moved the ball very well. Canada was very strong with the ball and very deliberate, and we were overreacting. So, we had to kind of calm them down a little bit on the defensive end and talk about maturity rather than just effort. It had to be maturity with effort.”
Canada got the next bucket, but the U.S. clamped down and turned on its impressive hallmark defense. Forcing Canada into five turnovers in the final 2:32 of the half, the USA got four points from Jones in an 8-0 run to close the midway point up 47-31.
The run extended into the third quarter as Stewart hit the first three buckets, followed by a 3-pointer and jumper from Jones and at 7:19 the USA had firm control of the contest, 58-31. In all, during the USA’s 19-0 run that bridged the two halves, Jones nine points and Stewart notched six.
“Incredible,” said Moriah Jefferson (Connecticut / Glenn Heights, Texas), who dished out seven assists and had three steals and five points, regarding the play of Jones. “She came out on fire, so I was like, ‘well, wherever Lex is, that’s where I’m going to try to get the ball to.’ I think we all as a team recognized it and we just fed the beast.”
By the end of the third quarter the USA was up 78-42 and cruised through the fourth for the eventual victory.
Holding a narrow 44-39 rebounding margin, the USA shot 44.9 percent from the field and was on fire from 3-point, hitting 42.9 percent (6-14 3pt FGs) from beyond the arc, while holding Canada to 32.8 percent from the field. Further, the USA dished out 22 assists on 35 baskets, scored 25 points off of 28 Canada turnovers, while allowing Canada to score just seven from its 15 miscues. The USA outscored Canada 44-24 in the paint, 17-8 on second chances and 8-0 on the fast break.
Oregon State University’s Jamie Weisner finished as Canada’s leading scorer with 14 points.
Looking ahead to tomorrow night’s game against France, Stewart said “They’re a very good and athletic team and I think that we really need to pick our stuff a little bit, pick it up defensively and be ready for them because they’re going to come at us strong tomorrow.”
In other second-round games Australia (4-1) beat Brazil (4-1) 69-51, France (5-0) remained perfect with a 62-43 defeat of China (3-2), Japan (2-3) raced past Serbia (1-4) 87-67, the Netherlands (2-3) edged host Lithuania (1-4) 72-65, while Spain (5-0) also kept its undefeated record with an 80-72 victory over Russia (2-3).
In classification games for 13th-16th places, South Korea (2-3) defeated Senegal (0-5) 97-64 and Argentina (1-4) picked up its first victory after defeating Mali (1-4) 70-51.
Assisting Meier and the U19 squad are collegiate head coaches Nikki Caldwell of Louisiana State University and Kelly Graves of Gonzaga University.
Originally known as the FIBA Junior World Championship, the tournament was held every four years starting in 1985. FIBA changed its calendar in 2006 and now conducts the U19 World Championship every other year. USA women’s teams are now 62-12 in the U19/Junior World Championships, capturing a fourth-consecutive gold medal with an 8-1 record most recently in 2011. The U.S. has captured five of the last six U19/Junior World Championship gold medals and boasts a 50-4 record over that span, to include the 5-0 slate at the 2013 U19 Worlds.