PANEVEZYS, Lithuania – Breanna Stewart (Connecticut / North Syracuse, N.Y.) scored a game-high 20 points and Duke’s Alexis Jones (Midland, Texas) added 13 points and a game-high five assists to lead the 2013 USA U19 Women’s U19 World Championship Team (2-0) as it shattered China (1-1) 103-56 at the FIBA U19 World Championship on Friday night in Panevezys, Lithuania.
In addition to Stewart, who also had a game-high four steals, Morgan Tuck (Connecticut / Bolingbrook, Ill.) contributed 18 points and eight rebounds, A’ja Wilson (Heathwood Hall H.S / Hopkins, S.C.) notched a double-double with 16 points and 10 caroms, Brianna Turner (Manvel H.S. / Pearland, Texas) also scored 16 and hauled in seven boards, while Linnae Harper (Whitney Young H.S. / Chicago, Ill.) pitched in 12 points and five rebounds.
Jones, a freshman All-America at Duke this past season, saw action in 22 minutes, while totaling 13 points, five assists, three rebounds and one assist.
In other Group D action, host Lithuania (1-1) ran past Mali (0-2) 84-50. The U.S. concludes preliminary round play against Mali on July 20 (1:15 p.m. EDT).
“Our effort and our focus on defense has just been incredible these first two games,” said USA U19 and University of Miami head coach Katie Meier. “It starts with our leadership. I feel like they communicate so well as a team. They cover for each other. So, I’m sure it’s hard for the other teams to figure out what we’re playing and what we’re in because I’m letting them play to their instincts a lot and they’re wonderfully instinctive players.”
China closed the first quarter, which saw a pair of lead changes and three knotted scores, with a 3-pointer to narrow the gap to 23-18. Hitting the first bucket of the second quarter, China closed to 23-18. But that was as close as the Asian squad would get. Jones scored six points in a 12-0 run that gave the American women some breathing room, 35-20, with 4:15 remaining before halftime.
“I think it was our defense, it definitely contributed,” remarked Stewart on the 12-0 run. “China is obviously a good team, so we knew that they were going to stick with us for a little bit. We knew that if we kept going after them and kept pressuring them on defense, then eventually things would start to crumble for them and open up for us.”
China cut the lead to 37-24 at 3:20, but the Americans closed out the half on a 7-3 spurt and headed into the locker room up 44-27.
After outscoring China 4-2 to open the second half, the USA’s foes strung together five straight points and the score stood at 48-34 at 7:25. However, the U.S. turned up its defensive pressure, which resulted in a 17-0 scoring spree, nine of which came from Stewart. That run completely cracked China and put the game well in hand, 65-34, with 13:03 still to play.
By the end of the third quarter the USA was up 70-43. The lead ballooned to 48 points, 97-47 with 3:15 to play, before the U.S. cruised in for the win.
“Everybody played well and stepped up to their roles,” said Harper. “I think Nia (Coffey) and Bri-T (Brianna Turner) and A’ja Wilson did a phenomenal job on the glass, offensively and defensively. China had some big players, they had good depth and I think we handled it well.”
Wilson, who hit 7-of-10 from the field and nabbed six offensive boards, has had to make some adjustments to the FIBA rules, but she is getting used to the physicality and it showed tonight.
“These girls are physical,” said Wilson. “And the calls are different. I’m so used to playing AAU and high school, where any little touch is a foul. Here, they let you play and I love that style of basketball. That’s my biggest adjustment, just being physical and being able to hang.
“A double-double in your second international game,” Meier said when asked about Wilson’s performance. “That’s very poised, very composed. And she had a much more difficult opponent, in terms of their inside presence. It was much thicker. They could run with us. They had bigger bodies down there. She was much more composed. The first game jitters were definitely gone. She’s a veteran now.”
The USA again dominated the glass, outrebounding China 51-24. The U.S. also scored 26 points on 24 Chinese turnovers, but gave up just four points in 17 miscues. Further, the USA outscored China 68-26 in the paint, 24-2 on second chances and 48-20 off the bench. The U.S. shot a red-hot 53.8 percent from the field and 25.0 percent from 3-point, while limiting China to 35.0 percent from the field and just 15.0 percent (3-20 3pt FGs) from 3-point after the Asians went off for 48.0 percent (12-25 3pt FGs) in their first game.
Late in last night’s game against Lithuania, Candice Agee (Penn State / Victorville, Calif.) suffered a mild sprain of her left ankle and is listed as day to day.
In other games, Brazil (2-0) downed South Korea (0-2) 96-81, France (2-0) breezed past Senegal (0-2) 77-23, Russia (1-1) knocked down Serbia (1-1) 73-51, Canada (2-0) fought off a second half surge to nip the Netherlands (0-2) 69-67, Spain (2-0) overpowered Argentina (0-2) 68-32, while Australia (2-0) earned a 96-82 victory over Japan (0-2).
Assisting Meier and the U19 squad are collegiate head coaches Nikki Caldwell of Louisiana State University and Kelly Graves of Gonzaga University.
The 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship, which features 16 teams with athletes 19-years-old or younger, is being hosted by Lithuania from July 18-28 in Klaipeda and Panevė˛ys.
The top three finishing teams from each first-round group will advance to the second round, held July 22-24. The 12 nations qualifying for the second round will be divided into Groups E and F. Each team will play the three new teams in its new group, with all results of games played in the preliminary round carrying over to determine the second-round standings.
Teams finishing in first through fourth places in the second round will qualify for the quarterfinals, with the opportunity to advance to the semifinals and finals. The medal round will be played in Klaipeda, with the quarterfinals held on July 26, semifinals slated for July 27 and the gold medal game on July 28.
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 59-12 in the U19/Junior World Championships, capturing a fourth-consecutive gold medal with an 8-1 record most recently in 2011.
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