(Courtesy USA Basketball) Holding China (1-1) to 15 points and 16.7 percent shooting in the first half, the 2017 USA Women's U19 World Cup Team (2-0) exploded for a 48-15 halftime lead and cruised in for a 91-51 victory at the FIBA U19 World Cup on Sunday evening in Cividale del Friuli, Italy.
Joyner Holmes (Texas/Cedar Hill, Texas) was the team's leading scorer, contributing 14 points and nine rebounds, as every member of the team put up points, including five in double digits. Chennedy Carter (Timberview H.S./Mansfield, Texas) scored 13 points; Crystal Dangerfield (Connecticut/Murfreesboro, Tenn.) and Ruthy Hebard (Oregon/Fairbanks, Alaska) pitched in 11 points apiece, Hebard also grabbed nine caroms and Dangerfield passed out a game-best four assists; while Bella Alarie (Princeton/Bethesda, Md.) chipped in 10 points and had eight boards.
The American women close preliminary play July 25 against host Italy (0-1), which plays Mali (0-1) in tonight's late game.
"Defensively, we tried to stay in place, limit penetration and really focus on defending their offense," said USA U19 and University of Pittsburgh head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio. "Our players came out with a focus and energy defensively, and we were really impressed with the way we defended dribble penetration, contesting shots. The first half, we limited them to 15 points. I think our defense created a lot of opportunities in transition and other scoring opportunities. Great first half coming out with a lot of energy."
Dangerfield hit a jumper at 9:21 for the first points of the game and the USA never relinquished its lead. Carter drove to the lane for another two points before China got on the scoreboard with a free throw at 7:57. A 7-0 run by the U.S. was halted by China's first field goal of the game - one of just three allowed by the stingy U.S. defense in the first half. The USA continued to fluster China on the defensive end, while running out to a 28-10 advantage at the first quarter buzzer with eight players adding points in the first 10 minutes of play, which ended with a Megan Walker (Monacan H.S./Chesterfield, Va.) buzzer-beating put-back.
The second quarter was more of the same as the USA strung together a pair of 8-0 runs while outscoring China 20-5 to take a commanding 48-15 halftime lead. By the midway buzzer, the USA had stymied China, which shot 46.4 percent (26-56 FGs) from the floor and 30.8 percent (8-26 3pt FGs) against Italy Saturday night, into a frigid 4-of-24 from the field and 1-of-10 from beyond the arc. Further, the USA scored 16 points on China's 12 turnovers and had 10 points in transition.
Easing up in the second half, the USA outscored 25-23 in the third quarter and 18-13 in the fourth quarter. Its largest lead of the night was 44 points (86-42) with 3:25 to play in the game.
The American women finished the night shooting 40.8 percent (31-76 FGs) from the floor and 25.0 percent (5-20 3pt FGs) from 3-point, while holding China to an icy 29.5 percent (18-61 FGs) shooting overall and 17.4 percent (4-23 3pt FGs) from afar.
Despite averaging an inch shorter than the Chinese, the USA won the battle on the boards 57-37, capitalized for 31 points off China's 20 turnovers and outscored China 48-22 in the paint and 43-19 off the bench.
The USA post players held China's 6-foot-8 center Xu Han, who scored 13 against Italy, to just three points.
"We tried to focus on their penetration," said Dangerfield on the team's game plan. "We knew they had a big girl, and we wanted to be able to shut her down early.
"They were really physical," added Dangerfield on her team's post players. "I was really happy to see that. Moving forward, that is going to be huge."
In Group B, Egypt (1-1) collected a 69-52 win over Puerto Rico (0-2) and Russia (1-0) faces Spain (1-0) in the day's final game in Udine. Group C saw Latvia (1-1) surge ahead in the second half to defeat South Korea (0-2) 69-61 and Canada (2-0) beat France (1-1) 54-45; while in Group D, Japan (2-0) beat Hungary (1-1) 68-59 and Australia (2-0) sailed past Mexico (0-2) 109-34.
"We will have to sit down and play some defense (against Italy)," said Dangerfield. "They are going to come out really aggressive, and they will definitely use their home court advantage on us. If we can stop that early, we should have a good chance."
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.
FIBA U19 World Cup for Women
Six-time defending FIBA U19 World Cup gold medalists, the USA is hoping to make it a lucky seven in a row at the 12th FIBA U19 World Cup, held July 22-30 in Cividale del Friuli and Udine, Italy.
Originally known as the FIBA Junior World Championship, FIBA changed the names of its age-based world championships in 2005 to reflect the age of eligibility, and recently updated the names of all of its world championships to world cups. The tournament was held every four years starting in 1985. FIBA in 2005 modified its calendar and now conducts the U19 World Cup every other year. Including its two victories in 2017, USA women's teams are 75-12 in U19/Junior World Cups, capturing a sixth-consecutive gold in 2015 with a 7-0 record.
Notable players to represent the USA at the FIBA U19 World Championship include: Alana Beard (2001), Essence Carson (2005), Tamika Catchings (1997), Bria Hartley (2011), Crystal Langhorne (2005), Jantel Lavender (2007), Lisa Leslie (1989), Rebecca Lobo (1993), Maya Moore (2007), Nnemkadi Ogwumike (2009), Vickie Orr (1985), Cappie Pondexter (2001), Katie Smith (1993), Dawn Staley (1989), Azurá Stevens (2015), Breanna Stewart (2011 and MVP of the 2013 U19 World Championship), Diana Taurasi (2001), Morgan Tuck (2011 and 2013) and A'ja Wilson (2013 and MVP of the 2015 U19 World Championship).