BANGKOK, Thailand — The USA U19 women tallied 52 points in the paint and compiled a 55-23 rebounding advantage in an impressive 89-67 win over South Korea in preliminary round play at the FIBA U19 …
BANGKOK, Thailand — The USA U19 women tallied 52 points in the paint and compiled a 55-23 rebounding advantage in an impressive 89-67 win over South Korea in preliminary round play at the FIBA U19 World Cup on Sunday in Bangkok, Thailand.
The USA (2-0), which had a four-inch average height advantage over South Korea (0-2), got 49 points off of the bench, compared to six points from South Korea’s reserves, and saw all 12 players score.
“It takes a lot of discipline when you’re competing against a team like South Korea that cuts and plays as hard as they do,” said Jeff Walz, USA U19 and University of Louisville head coach. “They pass the ball a lot and don’t dribble a lot. And when you’re able to make a pass and not dribble, it really makes teams have to chase you. So, it took us awhile to get adjusted to that, but then we just used our athleticism to disrupt what they wanted to do. Then gradually we started to get things done and we were able to pull away and get a nice, comfortable lead.”
Francesca Belibi (Regis H.S./Centennial, Colo.) led the USA with 18 points on 8-of-8 shooting from the field.
Former Bradley Central standout Rhyne Howard (Kentucky/Cleveland, Tenn.) hit 5-of-7 from 3 and added 17 points and nine rebounds, plus copped a pair of steals and dished two assists.
Queen Egbo (Baylor/Houston, Texas) tallied 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Paige Bueckers (Hopkins H.S./St. Louis Park, Minn.) dished out seven of the USA’s 25 assists.
“We have a lot of depth and that’s one thing that we have to have, especially playing in tournament like this when you have seven games in nine days,” added Walz. “You’ve got to be able to count on several players, and you’ve got to be smart to know that if someone’s on, you need to give them the ball. Those are things I’m challenging this team with, if someone’s made two shots in a row, get her a third. Overall, I was really pleased with how different players stepped up at different times today.”
The USA led 9-4 to start the game, but Korea responded with six-straight points to take a 10-9 advantage at 5:08. The USA closed the period on a 16-4 run, however, and led 25-14 after the first 10 minutes.
“We started out really aggressive, which is always good,” said Belibi. “We started off a little slow on offense, but our defense helped lead to some easy offensive points. As the saying goes, ‘defense wins championships.’ So, if we can keep up our defense, our offense is going to come. We have a lot of offensive threats on this team, so as long as we keep up our defense, we’ll be fine.”
Howard, who had all 17 of her points by halftime, sank four 3-pointers in the second quarter, which helped the USA to compile 25 points in the period and take a 50-31 lead at the midway point.
Defensively, the USA held South Korea to 12-of-32 from the field (.375) in the first half, and throughout the game, the USA won the rebounding battle. The USA’s rebounding margin at halftime was 30-9.
Egbo led the USA in the third quarter, tallying her 14 points and 11 boards in the period, which saw the USA put together an 11-0 run and increase its lead to as many as 26 points, 68-42. South Korea scored the quarter’s final four points, however, and the USA was ahead 68-46 after three periods.
“I just put myself in good position to rebound, knowing that most likely the ball was going to come off the weak side,” said Egbo. “So, I found myself there most of the time cleaning up off of other people’s missed shots.”
Both teams added 21 points in the fourth quarter to bring the game to its 89-67 final.
Rising Texas freshman Celeste Taylor (Long Island Lutheran/Valley Stream, N.Y.), who tallied five points, two rebounds three assists and three steals, put in another strong defensive effort for the U.S. squad and was called out after the game by Walz for her effort.
“Celeste understands the game,” he said. “That’s what’s impressed me about her. She does a lot without scoring. When you’ve got that mindset that it’s not always about scoring, you’ve got a chance to be a special basketball player. She gets out there and really communicates on defense, she rebounds, she is willing to make the extra pass. It’s not just about her scoring the ball.”
“I always take pride in defense,” said Taylor. “Ever since I was young, that is something I was taught, that you’re going to get on the floor for playing defense. So, whatever I can do for this team, that’s what I’m going to do. Whether it’s scoring two points a game, scoring no points a game, that doesn’t matter. But if I can have that defensive intensity and help my teammates on the defensive end, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
South Korea’s Jihyun Park played all 40 minutes and scored 26 points.
The USA shot 60% (30-50 FGs) from inside the arc and 50.7% (36-71 FGs) overall and held South Korea on the defensive end to just 26.1% (22-16) of its field goal attempts. The Americans also outscored South Korea 26-9 on second-chance points and 18-8 points on the fast break.
“We definitely took advantage of our size advantage,” said Belibi. “They made it hard to get it into the post, but that really helped open things up for our guards and then the posts and everyone else went in and crashed, Celeste was in there, Diamond (Miller), all the guards were in there. It really helped a lot.”
The USA will cap its preliminary round competition against Hungary at 1 a.m. EDT on July 23. The game will be available live online at Facebook.com/USABasketball or YouTube.com/FIBA.
“Hungary is very talented,” said Walz. “They work extremely hard. They’ve got nice inside post players. They’ve got good guards. We saw them play yesterday, we’ll have a chance to watch some more film tonight and get prepared to play them on Tuesday.”
In the other Group C game Sunday, Australia (1-1) defeated Hungary (1-1) 81-71. The USA will wrap up round-robin play at 1 a.m. EST Tuesday morning against Hungary.
In other games Sunday, Latvia (2-0) pulled away from host Thailand (0-2) 74-57 and Canada (1-1) edged Mozambique (1-1) 60-59 in Group A; Group B games include China (1-1) defeated Mali (0-2) 72-62, while Belgium (2-0) dropped Argentina (1-0) 69-43; while Group D match-ups are Spain (2-0) beat Japan (1-1) 79-65 and Colombia (1-1) downed Germany (0-2) 67-60.
On their day off Monday, the USA team toured a must-see sight that no visit to Bangkok would be complete without — the dazzling, spectacular Grand Palace.
Undoubtedly the city's most famous landmark, it was built in 1782 and for 150 years was the home of the Thai King, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government
Following tonight's preliminary round, all teams will advance to the round of 16 Wednesday, where the USA will cross over against a team from Group D, based on final preliminary round standings.
The winners of the round of 16 will advance to Friday's medal quarterfinals, and the losers will play out for ninth-16th places.
On Saturday, the semifinals will be played, with the gold and bronze medal games set for Sunday.
Walz is being assisted by collegiate head coaches Natasha Adair (Delaware) and Cori Close (UCLA).
Originally known as the FIBA Junior World Championship, the tournament was held every four years starting in 1985. FIBA changed its calendar in 2005 and now conducts the U19 World Cup every other year.
Including two wins in Bangkok, USA women’s teams are now 81-13 in U19/Junior World Cups and own a record seven gold medals in addition to one silver medal and one bronze medal in the 12 previous U19 World Cups.
— Banner Assistant Sports Editor Joe Cannon contributed to this story.
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