July 23, 2009
BANGKOK, Thailand -- The United States tipped off the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championships on a sour note Thursday afternoon, as the two-time defending U19 gold medalists were upset by Spain, 90-86, on the opening day of Group D preliminary round action at the Bangkok Thai-Japan Youth Center in Bangkok, Thailand. The loss snapped an 18-game winning streak for Team USA in U19 World Championship competition, and was just the third loss for the Stars & Stripes in its last 32 games at the tournament, dating back to 1997.
Notre Dame incoming freshman guard and USA co-captain Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) scored 13 points and was one of five Americans to reach double figures in the contest. Co-captain Nnemkadi Ogwumike led the United States with 16 points, while Chay Shegog tossed in 13 points, Shanice Johnson tallied 11 points and a game-high nine rebounds, and Samantha Prahalis added 10 points.
As a team, the USA shot 38.7 percent from the field (29-of-75), but only 20 percent (3-of-15) from three-point range. The Americans also connected on 25-of-36 free throws (69.4 percent), led by Diggins' 8-of-8 effort at the stripe. Fouls wound up playing a significant role in the contest, with the teams whistled for a combined 59 infractions (33 by the United States) and five players fouling out (three by Spain). Several other players saw their playing time limited by foul trouble, including Diggins, who started but saw only 20 minutes of court time (five in the first half).
Leonor Rodriguez scored a game-high 23 points and Marta Tudanca chipped in 21 points for Spain, which shot 47.1 percent from the three-point line (8-of-17), led by Tudanca's 4-of-5 effort from distance.
"Spain is a very good team," said Carol Owens, USA and Northern Illinois University head coach (and a former Notre Dame assistant coach from 1996-2005). "They are hard to guard, especially for our big players. They sent them out on the perimeter, they set a lot of screens. We got ourselves in foul trouble, we dug ourselves a hole. We fought back hard, but it's important for us to take this game and understand how a sense of urgency right from the beginning is so important against any team."
"We just didn't play defense," Diggins added. "We fouled too much. Even if we don't think they're fouls, the ref called them so they're fouls. We came out like we were afraid. Even though I know we weren't, that's how it seemed. It was hard to get our momentum going. It was hard to get us started and catch on fire. Once we finally did it was too late. We put ourselves in a big hole, we dug ourselves deep. This is a wake-up call for us and a lesson that everyone's after us. Everyone wants to beat the USA. They were putting everybody out there on the line, trying to do anything they could to try to get in our heads. They were the better team tonight.
"They're ready to play and if we're not, things like that are going to happen," she continued. "Like I said, everybody wants to beat us. Everybody wants to come after us. Everybody knows that we're the United States and we're supposed to be the best. So they're going to come after us and try to prove something different."
The first quarter was close throughout the first eight minutes of play and with Spain up a point, 13-12, the USA was outscored 9-0 and Spain took a 22-12 lead at the quarter break.
The second quarter saw the Spaniards jump to a 17-point advantage at 44-27 with 2:40 to play in the half. Closing the first half on a mini 5-2 run, the United States headed into the locker room trailing 46-32.
Spain, which hit 11-of-13 of its attempts from the line in the first half and a sizzling 5-of-8 from 3-point land, forced the U.S. into 14 turnovers in the opening half. The U.S. held a slim 17-15 rebounding advantage heading into the locker room, but only made 3-of-8 from behind the arc and 5-of-10 from the charity stripe in the first half.
The second half opened with a Spain bucket at 9:34, but the USA quickly turned the tide. By playing better defense and not fouling Spain, the U.S. was able to make some stops defensively and its offense started clicking. Behind the scoring of five different players, the American women mounted a 16-5 run and was back in the game, 53-48, with 4:47 to play in the third period.
With Spain holding a six-point lead (58-52), the United States went on another run to take its first lead since the opening period. Ogwumike got a put-back, followed by a perfect 4-of-4 from the line by Diggins to tie the game at 58-all with 1:23 left in the stanza. Ogwumike then hit the second of two tries from the line to give the U.S. a 59-58 edge with less than a minute showing on the clock. After a Spain free throw, Layshia Clarendon got a steal and C'eira Ricketts converted to end the third period with the USA on top, 61-59.
Receiving seven points from Ogwumike, the United States went up 66-61 with 8:10 to play. However, during that stretch Diggins picked up her fourth foul and LaSondra Barrett, who finished with eight points and five boards, was whistled for her third.
Spain knotted the game at 66-66 at the 7:32 mark to kick-off a 21-1 run from which the U.S. would never fully recover. Spain got its next nine points from the charity stripe as Ogwumike was called for a pair of fouls, putting her in trouble with four, and Prahalis also picked up her fourth. By the time the run ended with just under five minutes to play, Spain was out in front 82-67.
Attempting one final comeback, the U.S. outscored Spain, 12-2 over the next 3:22 to close within five points at 84-79, with 1:35 remaining. Coming within two points, 88-86, with seven seconds to go, the United States was forced to foul and Rodriguez nailed both attempts with 6.2 seconds to go to seal the victory.
"(At halftime, Owens) told us that we needed to wake up," Diggins said. "If we wanted to win, we had to start playing ball. She said we dug a deep hole, but we just need to take it one play at a time and we can get it back. And we did. We were up. We just need to work on our defense. We need to sit our butts down and have pride on defense from now on."
The United States will look to start a new winning streak at the U19 World Championships on Friday at 8:45 a.m. ET (7:45 p.m. local) when it squares off with China in a Group D contest at the Bangkok Thai-Japan Youth Center. The Chinese won their tournament opener on Thursday, rallying in the second half to defeat Mali, 86-60.
After the round-robin preliminary group stage is complete, the top three teams in each of the four groups will advance to second-round pool play (two groups of six teams competing July 27-29), with the top four squads in each second-round division moving on to the medal round. The quarterfinals, semifinals and finals will be played on consecutive days from July 31-Aug. 2, with the gold medal game slated for 7 a.m. ET on Aug. 2. The full tournament schedule is available on the USA Basketball U19 National Team web page at www.usabasketball.com, and the official 2009 FIBA U19 World Championships web page at thailand2009.fiba.com.
NOTE: USA Basketball contributed to portions of this press release.