Alexis Jones (Duke University/Midland, Texas) added 12 points, five rebounds and four assists to help pace the U.S. past the Netherlands (1-3) 102-42 in the FIBA U19 World Championship on Monday night in Panevezys, Lithuania.PANEVEZYS, Lithuania – A’ja Wilson (Heathwood Hall H.S / Hopkins, S.C.), the youngest member of the 2013 USA U19 World Championship Team (4-0), posted game-highs of 20 points and eight rebounds, while
Morgan Tuck (Connecticut / Bolingbrook, Ill.) was right behind Wilson with 18 points, five boards, three assists and three steals; while Bashaara Graves (Tennessee / Clarksville, Tenn.) and Breanna Stewart (Connecticut / North Syracuse, N.Y.) chipped in 10 points apiece.
“The assistants are doing a great job with the scout, not overcomplicating things but understanding that if we take two or three things away from the other team, it’s very hard for them to overcome,” said USA U19 and University of Miami head coach Katie Meier. “With our size and length, we can cover up for some mistakes. We made some defensive mistakes tonight, but we had effort behind the ball, it didn’t matter. It didn’t burn us.”
“(Morgan) Tuck sets the tone. She sets the tone from the beginning And Stewie (Breanna Stewart), I would give Stewie more than two blocks. From what I saw, I thought she got the ball in the air a lot and really changed the game on the defensive end. She played some of her best defense for sure tonight. She can guard every position. Someone like Bashaara Graves, who’s been playing great for us, was guarding every position tonight.”
The USA continues second round play against Canada (2-2) on July 23 (1:15 p.m. EDT) and France (4-0) on July 24 (1:15 p.m. EDT). Upon the conclusion of the second round, the top four finishing teams in each 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.
The USA struck first, a 3-pointer from Jones 20 seconds into the contest, and never trailed. Holding a 6-4 lead, the U.S. got a put-back from Bashaara Graves, followed by a pair of 3-pointers from Stewart to gain a double-digit advantage, 16-6, at 6:11.
With the U.S. up 19-11, Bashaara Graves got a feed inside from Tuck to kick-start an 11-0 scoring run, which saw Wilson contribute five points, and with 1:34 remaining in the first quarter the USA’s advantage was up to 30-11. The Netherlands notched the period’s final four points and trailed 30-15 at the break.
“I was really just cleaning up everybody’s shots,” said Wilson on the kind of shots she was getting. “They were great shots they were taking, but they just weren’t falling. I was just rebounding and putting them back up. One of our goals was offensive rebounding, so I really focused on as the ball would go up to go get it and put it back in the basket. So, that’s what I did.”
The Americans used a pair of runs – 8-0 to open the second quarter and 16-0 to close it out – to put the game out of reach, 56-19. The run extended into the second half as the USA scored six unanswered points coming out of the locker room. From there, the Americans ended the third quarter up 81-31 and outscored the Dutch 21-11 in the final frame.
Gabby Green (St. Mary’s College H.S. / Oakland, Calif.) was credited with five of the USA’s 24 steals, while Bashaara Graves had four.
“(Canada has) played some close games here,” added Meier. “They’re very fundamental. They’re doing a nice job with their head coach who had to leave. Scott’s (Edwards) doing a great job keeping their girls playing at a very high level. We’re going to have to keep the pressure up like we’ve been doing on the defensive end and making sure we’re finishing them. We’re getting a lot of offensive rebounds and when we put those back in, it’s hard to deal with us, but sometimes we’ve not converted on all of those. That’s something that’ll be a big focus for us also.”
In all, the USA forced 28 Dutch turnovers and capitalized by scoring 31 points of their mistakes. In contrast, the USA turned the ball over just nine times. The Americans dished out 27 assists on 41 buckets and outrebounded Netherlands 55-44. Shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from 3-point, the USA held the Dutch players to just 25.0 percent of their shots from the floor and 19.0 percent from afar. Further, the USA outscored its opponent 60-20 in the paint, 18-9 on second chances, 9-0 on the fast break and 50-11 off the bench.
“Netherlands is a pretty good team,” said Tuck. “They’re disciplined and they run their sets pretty well. We really focused on their three main players and we tried to take them out of the game, especially their point guard (Laura Cornelius), then just play our game and run the floor. I think we did a really good job of getting steals, running the floor and passing the ball.”
In other second-round games Australia (3-1) ran past Russia (2-2) 96-72, China (3-1) downed Canada (2-2) 79-64, Brazil (4-0) survived 70-66 against Japan (1-3), France (4-0) held off a late Lithuanian (1-3) surge 65-53, while Spain (4-0) topped Serbia (1-3) 73-55.
In classification games for 13th-16th places Mali (1-3) defeated Senegal (0-4) 47-29 and South Korea (1-3) took Argentina (0-4) 87-60.
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 61-12 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 49-4 record over that span, to include the 4-0 slate at the 2013 U19 Worlds.