July 25, 2009
BANGKOK, Thailand -- The United States U19 National Team closed out first-round pool play at the FIBA World Championships in grand style on Saturday night, thrashing Mali, 100-38 in a Group D matchup at the Bangkok Thai-Japan Youth Center in Bangkok, Thailand. Team USA (2-1) finishes second in its preliminary round group and advances to the second round of pool play (known internationally as the eighth-finals) that gets underway on Monday.
Notre Dame incoming freshman guard and United States co-captain Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) scored nine points on 4-of-8 shooting, while adding three rebounds and two assists in 18 minutes. She was one of eight American players to score at least eight points in the contest, with five finishing in double figures, led by Kelly Faris with 13 points. Thanks to a 30-point lead by halftime, most of the USA starters rested in the second half, as all 11 players who saw action got into the scoring column and only four played more than 20 minutes in the game.
As a team, the United States shot 43.4 percent from the field (36-of-82) and found its shooting eye from the three-point line, going 9-of-19 (47.1 percent) from distance. The Stars & Stripes also owned a 2-to-1 edge in the rebounding column, finishing with a 54-27 advantage.
Aissata Djibo was the only player to score in double figures for the west African nation of Mali (0-3), ending up with a game-high 18 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter. The overmatched and undersized Mali squad pinned its hopes on trying to beat the Americans from the three-point line, but didn't find much success, connecting on just 3-of-31 shots (9.7 percent) from beyond the arc.
Saturday's game was close for the first three minutes, as early buckets by Diggins and Samantha Prahalis were matched by four points from Djibo. However, Prahalis knocked down a three-pointer at the 6:20 mark and the United States was off to the races, closing the first quarter on a 21-2 run.
Team USA then scored 13 of the first 15 points in the second period, capped off when Diggins picked Djibo's pocket and fed Faris for a breakaway layup that forced a Mali timeout with 6:11 remaining in the first half. By the time the dust settled, the Americans had fashioned a 34-4 charge covering nearly 10 minutes and the game was all but over.
Leading 55-19 at halftime, the USA used its starters for only the first three minutes of the third quarter, and shortly after Diggins canned a three-pointer with 7:10 left in the period, she and fellow co-captain Nnemkadi Ogwumike were summoned to the bench as the last of the starting five to complete their work day. The American second unit proved to be just as potent the rest of the way, never letting the lead dip below 34 points en route to the largest margin of victory by any team thus far in the tournament.
The two-time defending gold medalist United States now joins fellow Group D teams Spain and China in advancing to second round pool play. Those three countries will be joined by Russia, Canada and Japan to form the second-round Group F, with each team facing the three new teams in the pool and the top four squads then advancing to the medal round.
Following a tournament-wide rest day on Sunday, the USA will begin Group F second-round action on Monday (July 27) at 4:15 a.m. ET (3:15 p.m. local) when it squares off with Canada at the Bangkok Thai-Japan Youth Center. Like the United States, the Maple Leafs finished 2-1 in their preliminary round pool, bouncing back from a first-day loss to Russia (54-46) with victories over Tunisia (87-26) and Japan (73-51).
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.