(UNDATED) The USA U19 squad had all it wanted from France on Wednesday, but the Americans had the right stuff to get the job done, 69-63, and advance to Friday’s quarterfinal round at the FIBA World Championship for Women.
USA, now 6-0, will face Japan (3-3) on Friday at 1:15 p.m. Eastern time in Klaipeda. The Japanese advanced to the quarters by taking down Russia on Wednesday, 88-78. Live stats will be available at www.fibalivestats.com.
The other three quarterfinal match-ups include Spain (6-0) versus Canada (3-3), Brazil (4-2) versus France and Australia (5-1) versus China (4-2). Should the U.S. advance to the July 27 medal semifinals, it will face the winner of the Australia-China contest for the right to play in the July 28 gold medal game. The medal semifinals and the gold and bronze medal games will be streamed live online by ESPN3.
“We have a ton of respect for France,” USA head coach Katie Meier said. “They match us athletically. They are better than us in pace of play and they controlled the tempo tonight. We couldn’t impose our will on them, because they’re a very veteran team.
“We had to play their game and break through our box of tricks. We had to dig through our half court offenses and our half court defenses and really execute. We figured it out, but it took a long time to figure it out. They’re a very sophisticated, high-level basketball club.”
Tennessee’s Bashaara Graves got into foul trouble early and went to the bench in the first quarter with 5:09 remaining. The 6-foot-2 power forward from Clarksville Tenn. (Clarksville H.S.) didn’t return to action until starting the second half and wound up playing 19 total minutes. Her stat line included four points, on two-of-three shooting, with seven rebounds, an assist and a steal.
UConn’s Breanna Stewart paced the USA attack once again, tallying 22 points on eight of 15 shooting and contributing six rebounds, three steals, two blocked shots and a steal. Aby Gaye led France with 18 points.
The Americans were in for a fight from the get-go, as Meier’s squad struggled to a 19-15 lead in the opening stanza. The French buckled down even more in the second quarter, holding the USA to an 11-9 advantage in that frame and trailing only 30-24 at intermission.
The third stanza turned out to be a scoring bonanza for both teams, in this game anyway, as USA outscored their opponents 24-22 to take a 54-46 lead into the final 10 minutes. Despite being out-pointed, 17-15, in the final quarter, the Americans held on for the win and remained perfect in the tournament.
“I loved every second of the game,” Meier said. “I loved coaching it, I loved the time outs, I loved the ebb and flow, I loved the special situations. I loved it.
“I was having a great time during that game because you think, who’s going to hit the big shot? Who’s going to make the defensive stop? What are we going to do on a certain screen action? There were so many questions that we had to solve and we really hadn’t had to solve them yet in this tournament, so for me it was an encyclopedia of information to digest tonight and tomorrow before we play again on Friday.”