BANGKOK, Thailand — Taking control of the game with a 21-4 third-quarter output, the USA Women opened the 13th FIBA U19 World Cup with a 79-56 victory over Australia on early Saturday morning …
BANGKOK, Thailand — Taking control of the game with a 21-4 third-quarter output, the USA Women opened the 13th FIBA U19 World Cup with a 79-56 victory over Australia on early Saturday morning Cleveland time.
“We came out in the second half and played without fouling,” said Jeff Walz, USA U19 and University of Louisville head coach on the USA’s third-quarter surge.
“We still played aggressive, dictated the tempo of the game and got Australia playing a little faster than they probably wanted to play.
"Then we got some easy baskets out of our defense, where in the first half we were just fouling too much," he assessed. "We were fouling in positions where there’s no need to foul. We were running over post players in transition, had too much hand on the ball when the ball handler was coming up the floor.
"We made a few small adjustments for that at halftime, and then we were able to start playing and I thought they did a very good job.”
Paige Bueckers (Hopkins H.S./St. Louis Park, Minn.) led the USA with 11 points, along with seven rebounds and six of her team’s 13 assists.
Queen Egbo (Baylor/Houston, Texas) added 10 points, including 4-of-4 from the free throw line. Naz Hillmon-Baker (Michigan/Cleveland, Ohio) had 10 points and nine rebounds.
Former Bradley Central standout Rhyne Howard (Kentucky/Cleveland, Tenn.) and Hailey Van Lith (Cashmere H.S./Wenatchee, Wash.) also contributed 10 points apiece.
Howard, who was 2-for-3 from 3-point land, and Van Lith cleared three caroms each, while Aliyah Boston (South Carolina/St. Thomas, USVI) helped out with eight points and seven boards.
In the first quarter, the USA jumped out with the game's first two baskets and led by as many as nine points, 15-6 with 3:30 to play.
Australia closed the gap to finish the quarter trailing 19-14. The USA scored 10 of its points from the free throw line in the first quarter.
The second period saw Australia tie the game at 21-21 just three minutes into the quarter, but the USA pushed its lead back to 28-22 at the 4:58 mark. Sinking three 3-pointers over the last three minutes of the first half, Australia tied the game at 32-all with 2:21 left, but the USA responded to lead 39-35 at the midway point.
“They came out very strong,” said Hillmon-Baker. “They wanted to come out fighting and that’s exactly what they did. They tried to force the tempo and force the pace and the physicality in the first half, which they did a good job of. We wanted to come out in the second half and be the ones changing the tempo.”
Which is precisely what the USA did in the second half.
Hillmon-Baker got a steal and finished off a layup 16 seconds into the third quarter. A minute later Bueckers scored off of another steal and the USA was off and running on a 10-0 spurt.
“Our defensive intensity is what really got us going,” said Hillmon-Baker. “I wouldn’t say that we had a strong offense in the first half, so getting stops and steals so we could get easy buckets is what really helped us pull away in the second half.”
Not allowing Australia to score for the first 3:48 and giving up just four points in the period overall, the USA led 60-39 with 10 minutes to play.
In all, the USA scored nine points off of nine Australian turnovers, recorded five steals and nine points on the fast break, and stymied Australia into shooting a frigid 15.4% (2-13 FGs) from the floor in the third period.
Australia attempted a comeback in the fourth period, drawing to 16 points, 66-50, with 4:34 to play, but the Americans went on a 13-2 run that put the game well out of reach for its largest lead of the game, 79-52, and cruised in for the win.
The USA squad took on South Korea in its second match up early this morning, and will tangle with Hungary at 1 a.m. Tuesday morning to finish up the preliminary round-robin play.
Hungary defeated South Korea 92-68 in Saturday's other opening round Group C game.
— Banner Assistant Sports Editor Joe Cannon contributed to this story.
Print subscribers have FREE access to clevelandbanner.com by registering HERE
Non-subscribers have limited monthly access to local stories, but have options to subscribe to print, web or electronic editions by clicking HERE
We are sorry but you have reached the maximum number of free local stories for this month. If you have a website account here, please click HERE to log in for continued access.
If you are a print subscriber but do not have an account here, click HERE to create a website account to gain unlimited free access.
Non-subscribers may gain access by subscribing to any of our print or electronic subscriptions HERE