The USA Women's U19 World Championship Team (1-0) jumped out to a 30-5 first quarter lead and never looked back to cruise to a 95-25 win over Ivory Coast (0-1) to open preliminary play Thursday in Bratislava, Slovakia.
Incoming University of Tennessee basketball freshmen, 6-4 post Vicki Baugh (Sacramento, CA) and 6-0 guard Angie Bjorklund (Spokane, WA), both contributed to the victory. Bjorklund was the second leading scorer for the USA with 13 points. The heady guard also added four rebounds and three assists in 19 minutes of action. Baugh was a monster on the boards grabbing eight rebounds and adding four points in 13 minutes of playing time.
After the game, Baugh and Bjorklund called back to Knoxville and talked about their opening victory:
“Today was a really good start for our team,” said Bjorklund. “We all played pretty well and spread around the minutes. We are looking forward to a big challenge tomorrow against China (China defeated Lithuania, 67-48 on Thursday).
“It’s a challenge walking into the gym with USA on our jersey. You are a targeted team and everyone wants to play their best against the USA,” said Bjorklund.
Baugh echoed Bjorklund’s remarks. “This was a perfect start for us,” Baugh said. “We played extremely well as a team and we know what we have to do to be successful here. We are a confident team.
“I was disappointed that my shots didn’t fall today but I understand that I have a different role on this team. I am an athletic post and I need to rebound and create steals. We can run with the ball and push tempo if we can take care of the boards. That’s my focus,” said Baugh.
“Vicki and I are doing great,” said Bjorklund. “It’s great getting to know a teammate who I’ll be spending my next four years with in college. Our whole team is fun and so far we’ve had a great experience.”
After leaving the Canary Islands, and before starting play in Bratislava, the team had an opportunity to travel to Vienna, Austria.
Led by game-highs of 17 points and 12 rebounds from Krystal Thomas (The First Academy / Orlando, Fla.) and 13 points from both Angie Bjorklund (University H.S. / Spokane, Wash.) and Jantel Lavender (Cleveland Central Catholic H.S. / Cleveland, Ohio), all 12 U.S. players scored in the contest.
"The issue for us tonight was just to be able to get our players to stay focused," said USA U19 and DePaul University (Ill.) head coach Doug Bruno. "Ivory Coast worked very hard against us, and our players just executed what we need to execute to get ready for a much tougher opponent tomorrow in China."
Maya Moore (Collins Hill H.S. / Lawrenceville, Ga.) sparked the red, white and blue with eight of the USA’s first 12 points during a 4:22 minute span that left the score 12-3 as Ivory Coast called its first timeout at 5:38. The breather couldn’t halt the U.S. onslaught, however, as five Americans scored during a 18-2 run to close the first period up 30-5.
"I definitely wanted to start off with a lot of intensity tonight," said Moore, who finished with 11 points and eight rebounds. "I was focused on my defense, and that really helped my game on the other end. But each and everyone of us on this team is an outstanding athlete back home, and it’s great to be able to play more than one role during a game."
The U.S. leaders shifted throughout the game as the USA went on to outscore Ivory Coast 21-5 in the second, 22-8 in the third and 22-7 in the fourth quarter.
Melissa Lechlitner (Notre Dame / Mishawaka, Ind.) scored six of her seven points in the second quarter, while the fourth period belonged to Krystal Thomas, who recorded 10 of her game-high 17 points during the final 10 minutes.
"I just focused on being strong with the ball, and let everything follow from there," Krystal Thomas. "I felt like I was back to playing the way I know I can, not the way I had been playing in exhibition. For us to start off with such a big win, with everyone playing well and everyone cheering for each other, it felt really good. After training for weeks, we are finally able to play, and this was just step one in our building process. "
The USA also was helped by nine points from team captain Monica Wright (Virginia / Woodbridge, Va.) and seven points and seven rebounds from Kayla Pedersen (Red Mountain H.S. / Fountain Hills, Ariz.). Italee Lucas (Centennial H.S. / Las Vegas, Nev.) dished a game-high four assists and Vicki Baugh (Sacramento H.S. / Sacramento, Calif.) collected eight rebounds.
"Our defense sparked a lot of offense tonight, and everything just dropped for us," said Bjorklund. "We’ve been preparing for this so long, with the practices and exhibition, and everything just came together. Playing with all these girls who are so good is so much fun."
The Ivory Coast managed just one player in double figures as Kani Kouyate scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
The USA will face China on July 27 before concluding preliminary round play on July 28 against Lithuania. The second round will be contested July 30-Aug.1, the quarterfinals are slated for Aug. 3, semifinals will be held Aug. 4 and the gold medal will be contested July 5.
"China is a classic international team that has been together a long time and knows how to play with one another," Bruno said. "They’ve got very good strength and size and very good guard play as well, so we are going to have to be ready to play. It’s going to be a much tougher ball game tomorrow than it was today."
Bruno is assisted on the sidelines by Cynthia Cooper-Dyke of Prairie View A&M University (Texas) and Carol Owens of Northern Illinois University.
Story Courtesy: UT Lady Vols Sports Information