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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Team USA Advances to U19 Semis Despite Shooting Woes

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Photo Caption: Breanna Stewart (White, No.10) led Team USA to the semifinals of the 2011 FIBA U19 Women’s World Championships with 21 points and 13 boards in Friday’s come-from-behind, 70-64, quarterfinal victory over France in Puerto Montt, Chile, Friday. Stewart, who will be a senior at Cicero-North Syracuse (NY) High School this fall, has committed to attend the University of Connecticut.

Photo Credit: Courtesy FIBA Media Central/Christian de Massis

By Lee Michaelson

Team USA’s juniors took one step closer to the gold medal in the FIBA U19 Women’s World Championships, currently underway in Puerto Montt, Chile, but theirs has not been the easy path to the podium many would have predicted. Just two days after suffering a 52-64 upset by North American neighbor Canada, France took the American teens to the limit, before subsiding, 64-70, in the sudden-death quarterfinals.

With the win, the U.S. moves on to the semifinals, where they will face Brazil, who outlasted Russia, 73-71, in the nightcap of Friday’s quarterfinal play.

The U.S., led by Connecticut signee Breanna Stewart’s double-double of 21 points and 13 boards, had to spend the rest of the game digging themselves out of a double-digit hole they dug for themselves in the opening period, which ended with the French on top, 23-11. For the second game in a row, the Americans suffered from poor ball-handling and ice-cold shooting, especially in the opening period, when they managed to net just four of their 16 attempts from the field, the misses including more than a few chippies deep in the paint. Meanwhile, the French shot a blistering 10-for-16 (62.5 percent) from the field in the first quarter, including three-for-five from beyond the arc.

The U.S. made up more than half the difference in the second period, outscoring the French 14-7 behind a 6-0 run launched by a lay-up by Stewart on an assist from Bria Hartley roughly four minutes into the quarter and capped by two in the paint by Hartley nearly three minutes later. Still, heading into the locker room, the Americans were down five, 25-30, and still trailed by two, 47-49, at the end of three.

Photo Caption: UConn’s Bria Hartley played a key role in the U.S. comeback, combining five assists and five rebounds with 10 points of her own.
Photo Credit: Courtesy FIBA Media Central/Christian de Massis

The U.S. came alive in the opening seconds of the final quarter, as Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis picked the pocket of France’s Jenny Fouasseau, and fed the ball to Stewart for an easy two on the fast-break to tie the score. Thirty seconds later, roles were reversed, as Stewart dished to Mosqueda-Lewis, and the Americans took their first lead since Elizabeth Williams netted a pair from the charity stripe in the game’s early minutes.

France’s Clarince Djaldi-Tabdi answered to tie the score again at 51 apiece, but this time it was Hartley who connected with Mosqueda-Lewis, who drained the long-ball, and though the French refused to fold, tying the game at 64 with two-and-a-half minutes left after falling behind by as many as 11, the Americans never trailed again.

The final four minutes of the game were tense for both sides. With France down five, 57-62, Helena Akmouche picked Ariel Massengale’s pocket, and knocked down a two-pointer to make it a single-possession game. The refs did not think much of Massengale’s response, whistling her for an “unsportsmanlike foul,” which put Agathe Degorces at the charity stripe, where she landed one of a pair, and put France back in possession. Fortunately for the Americans’ gold medal hopes—and unfortunately for France—Degorces missed on her follow-on two-point attempt, and though France’s Djaldi-Tabdi reined in the offensive rebound, but Degorces, who will have plenty to think about as she mourns the French near-miss, turned it back over on a double-dribble. (In fairness to the French field general, despite finishing with just three points to four turnovers, including those in the critical minutes, she played well for 30 of the game’s 40 minutes, passing out seven assists and reeling in five boards.)

The U.S. made the most of the opportunity, as Mosqueda-Lewis, who finished with 13 points on five-for-five from the field, plus three steals, netted two on an assist from Hartley, but France refused to go away. Akmouche missed her two-point attempt, but Djaldi-Tabdi scooped up the rebound and put it back for two. After Stewart missed her next attempt (the star of the game had cooled to just one-for-four from the field in the final quarter), Akmouche took a feed from Valeriane Ayayi and knocked down a mid-range jumper to tie the score at 64 apiece with 2:22 left on the clock.

For nearly a minute and a half, the scoreboard stood frozen as time ticked away. Hartley and Fouasseau exchanged misses, and then Djaldi-Tabdi swatted away Massengale’s attempt from deep in the key. The U.S. recovered possession, but Hartley’s three-point attempt was off the mark, and the French recovered the board.

Malina Howard set the game’s final minute and the ultimate American win in motion when she picked off a bad pass by Degorces. Djaldi-Tabdi fouled, sending Stewart to the line, where the American coolly knocked down both of her attempts to put the U.S. back on top by two with just over a minute remaining.

It was then that Degorces made yet another critical error, turning the ball back to the Americans on a travel violation, a gift that Mosqueda-Lewis turned into two points for Team USA.

Out of the timeout, Ayayi missed a three-point attempt; Degorces grabbed the board, then missed the putback. Massengale secured the offensive board for the Americans with two seconds left, forcing the French to foul, then drained both from the free-throw line to fix the final score at 70-64.

Photo Caption: With 19 points—including three treys—plus eight boards and three steals, 6-0 wing Valeriane Ayayi led a resilient French team that pushed the Americans to the wall before falling, 64-70, in a game that went down to the final two minutes.
Photo Credit: Courtesy FIBA Media Central/Christian de Massis

By game’s end, the Americans had improved their shooting to a still-uninspiring 39 percent from the floor (26-66) and a dangerously poor 25 percent (three-for-12 from the arc), as Hartley (10 points, five rebounds, five assists) joined Stewart and Mosqueda-Lewis in double figures for Team USA.

Ayayi led the way for France with 19 points, including three-of-nine from downtown, plus eight rebounds. Joining her in double figures were Akmouche with 15 points; Adja Konteh with 11, plus five boards, off the bench; and Fouasseau with 10. As a team, France’s shooting cooled to 40 percent from the field (25-of-63) and 31 percent from the arc (nine-of-29) by the final buzzer.

One big factor in the U.S. turn-around: The Americans’ handle on the basketball improved markedly over the course of the game. After six turnovers in the opening period, the U.S. coughed the ball up only four more times in the remainder of the game, while France’s turnovers (13 for the game) in the final minutes cost them dearly.

Another area worthy of note: Though the U.S. won the battle of the boards by a 38-29 margin, they may be dangerously over-reliant in that department on Stewart, who pulled down more than a third of the American rebounds singlehandedly. No other U.S. player but Mosqueda-Lewis had as many as five boards, whereas the French had four players with that many or more. An off-night for Stewart, who, for example, pulled down only three rebounds in 23 minutes in Wednesday’s loss to Canada, could spell disaster for Team USA as they advance to face team’s with taller, stronger posts—for example, Brazil’s Damaris Dantis (21.3 points, 13.1 rebounds per game); Australia’s Tayla Roberts, who is on MVP course with an average of 18.5 points and 9.8 rebounds, but exploded for 41 points and 17 boards in Friday’s 92-83 quarterfinal win over Japan; and Spain’s Astou Ndour, who is something less of a scoring threat at 12.3 points per game, but ranks high on the tournament leaderboard with nine rebounds per game.

Meanwhile, in Friday’s quarterfinal opener, Canada, who gave hope to the “Rest of the World,” with Wednesday’s upset of the Americans, saw their own gold-medal hopes dashed, as Spain advanced to the semifinals with a 69-55 victory. Canada had entered the quarterfinals as the only team undefeated in preliminary round play, and after their drubbing of Team USA, understandably had their eye on the prize.

However, Canada had no answer for 6-4 Spanish center Astou Ndour, a native of Senegal, who is among the tournament leaders in both scoring and rebounding and put up 19 points, while hauling down eight boards and blocking four shots, before fouling out of the contest. Ndou got plenty of help from Spanish wings Mariona Ortiz (14 points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals) and Queralt Casas (10 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals), as well as from the entire team’s aggressive assault on the boards (five Spaniards finished with six or more rebounds apiece).

Meanwhile, 6-3 Canadian center Michelle Plouffe (University of Utah), the hero of Wednesday’s win over the U.S. in which she logged a full stat line of 24 points, eight rebounds, three assists (but four turnovers), two steals and a swat, was held to just 12 points and six boards by a withering Spanish player-to-player defense, that held the Canadians to a frosty 27.9 percent from the field (including just one-for-10 from the perimeter). Indeed, more than 36 percent of Canada’s scoring came at the charity stripe, where they went 20-of-28 from the line, and the only Canadian player besides Plouffe to notch double figures was point guard Nirra Fields, a native of Lachine, Canada who just finished her junior year at Virginia’s Oak Hill Academy and posted 14 points before fouling out.

Shooting guard Korissa Williams and center Katherine Plouffe (Marquette University) pitched in six and seven rebounds, respectively, but the Canadians still lost the battle on the glass, 33-42.

Spain moves on to the semifinals to face Australia, which who overcame Japan behind Roberts’s outburst, despite an impressive seven-of-16 from the arc by 5-7 shooting guard Shiori Takada, who finished with a team-high 23 points, followed closely by 5-3 point guard Rui Machida, who posted a double-double of 22 points and 11 rebounds, while still dishing out five assists. As a team, the Japanese shot 40.8 percent from the field and a sizzling 15-of-37 (40.5 percent) from the arc.

The Gems had no real three-point game with which to answer, netting just one long ball on seven attempts. But the Australian point guard stil had plenty to contribute in the match, finishing with 17 points, seven rebounds, and six assists, while power forward Nadeen Payne chipped in 10 points and three assists. But the day belonged to Roberts, as the Aussie guards kept pounding the ball in down low to their young center who dominated both the boards and the paint, with a tournament-high (and personal best) 41 points on 60 percent shooting from the field (18-30).

Photo Caption: Japan scorched from beyond the arc, but had no answer in the paint for Australia’s Tay Roberts (Green, No. 13), who led her team into the semis with an 83-72 quarterfinal win behind a tournament-high, 41-point, 17 rebound explosion.
Photo Credit: Courtesy FIBA Media Central/Christian de Massis

Like the U.S. game against France, the final game of the day between Russia and Brazil went down to the wire. Though neither team shot the ball particularly well, Russia had the better of the evening, landing 40.6 percent (28-of-69) of their shots from the field, and 34.5 percent (10-of-29) from the arc. By comparison, Brazil managed just 33.3 percent (25-of-75) from the field and just three-of-nine (33.3 percent) from the perimeter. However, thanks to 17 rebounds from Dantas, Brazil managed a slight advantage (49-43) on the boards, coughed up just 11 turnovers to Russia’s 16 miscues, and, above all, got themselves to the free-throw line, where they netted 20 points on 41 attempts, while keeping the Russians (five-of-10) off it.

Photo Caption: Team USA will face Brazil in Saturday’s FIBA U19 Women’s World Championships semifinals. Brazil, led by 23 points and 17 boards from 6-4 center Damiris Dantas (Blue, No. 12, shown in action against Slovenia), advanced in yet another quarterfinal cliffhanger, a 73-71 win over Russia. Dantas currently leads the tournament in both scoring (21.3 points per game) and rebounding (13.1 boards per game).
Photo Credit: FIBA Media Central

In the end, Brazil hung on for the 73-71 win and a berth in the semifinals thanks to a 22-13 lead established in the opening quarter. Nearly two minutes had run off the clock, as the two sides traded misses and turnovers before Brazilian star Damaris Dantis broke the ice, but the Russians quickly answered with two in the paint from power forward Svetlana Efimova (12 points, five assists), followed by a trey by point guard Anastasia Psynkovia (her only goal—and only attempt—of the evening) that gave the Russians an early 5-4 edge.

Observers were once again treated to dreadful shooting from both sides until Brazil’s Tassia Carcavalli ignited a 13-3 Brazlian run over a four-minute span that lasted until Efimova netted a triple for Russia with 1:47 remaining in the period to cut Brazil’s lead to six, 17-11. Still, Russia could gain no traction as Damaris, mostly from the penalty line, and Carcavalli, put the lead back to nine, 22-13, by the end of the period.

The two teams battled each other to a standstill, with neither side gaining or extending any advantage in the second period, but Russia came out of the locker room to carve into the Brazilian lead with a 7-0 run that closed the gap to 43-45 roughly midway through the third period. Brazil stiffened their defense, and twice pushed their advantage back to six points over the next few minutes, but Russia once again rallied, as Ekaterina Fedorenkova and Ylia Polyanova each dropped in two in the paint to give the Russians their first lead since the early minutes of the game at 52-51 with 27 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Brazil’s Aruzha Michaski blew the opportunity to put her team back in the lead, missing two from the line, but Dantas drained a triple with three seconds remaining in the period to put Brazil back on top, 54-52.

Dantas netted another in the paint to open the final period and give her team some breathing room, but Alexandra Stolyar responded with a three-pointer to close the gap to one. Both teams traded more misses than makes, with neither side gaining any significant momentum until Ekaterina Kubynina netted a three to tie the score at 60 at the 6:21 mark.

Isabella Ramona answered with two in the paint to put Brazil back on top for good, but neither side would breathe easy until the final buzzer sounded. Much of the rest of the game would be played at the foul line until the final minute, when Ramona’s bucket, again in the paint, nosed Brazil’s edge to three, 71-68, with 24 seconds left. Carcavalli made it a four-point game, netting one of a pair from the line, and allowing Brazil to survive when Stolyar drained another trey with three seconds left to make it 72-71, Brazil.

Forced to foul, Russia put Dantas on the line, where she made the first, but missed the second. Carcavalli hauled in the offensive board, and though she missed her final attempt at the buzzer, Brazil advanced to the semifinals, where they will face Team USA on Saturday.

Originally published Fri, July 29, 2011

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Week: February 7, 2012
1 Baylor (31) 24-0 1 1 1 775
2 Notre Dame 23-1 2 2 2 743
3 Connecticut 21-2 3 4 3 710
4 Stanford 20-1 4 5 4 685
5 Duke 19-3 6 8 5 650
6 Miami (FL) 20-3 7 7 6 604
7 Kentucky 21-3 5 15 7 584
8 Maryland 20-3 10 10 8 534
9 Wisconsin-Green Bay 20-0 9 24 9 530
10 Ohio State 21-2 11 NR-RV
10 483
11 Tennessee 17-6 8 3 11 476
12 Delaware 20-1 13 NR 12 434
13 Georgetown 18-5 15 11 14 379
14 Texas A&M 16-5 16 6 15 378
15 Nebraska 19-3 18 NR 13 309
16 Rutgers 17-4 14 12 17 372
17 Louisville 17-6 12 9 20 276
18 Gonzaga 21-3 19 NR-RV
19 234
19 Purdue 19-5 17 21 16 222
20 Georgia 18-6 20 12 21 202
21 Penn State 18-5 21 14 18 176
22 DePaul 17-7 23 18 NR-RV
23 Georgia Tech 16-6 22 NR-RV
22 104
24 South Carolina 18-5 NR-RV
NR 24 46
25 Vanderbilt 18-5 NR-RV
NR 45
Dropped Out: No. 24 North Carolina, No. 25 Kansas.
First-place votes: Total first-place votes received (if any) are indicated in parentheses following school name.
Others receiving votes: St. Bonaventure (22-2) 34; North Carolina (17-6) 19; California (17-6) 18; Florida Gulf Coast (21-2) 16; Middle Tennessee (19-5) 15; Texas-El Paso (20-2) 8; Texas Tech (16-6) 5; Brigham Young (21-4) 4; Fresno State (19-4) 4; St. John's (15-8) 4; Princeton (15-4) 3; Oklahoma (15-7) 2; West Virginia (17-6) 2; Kansas State (15-7) 1.
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Credit: Courtesy Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). The weekly Division I Top 25 Coaches' Poll, sponsored by USA Today and ESPN, is based on voting by a Board of Coaches made up of 31 head coaches at Division I institutions all of whom are WBCA members.