July 27, 2009
BANGKOK, Thailand -- Following a day off, the United States U19 National Team tipped off second-round play at the FIBA World Championships on Monday afternoon with a 64-50 victory over Canada in a Group F contest at the Bangkok Thai-Japan Youth Center in Bangkok, Thailand. Since its four-point upset loss to Spain on the opening day of the tournament, the USA has reeled off three consecutive victories and clamped down on the defensive end, holding its last three opponents to an average of 47 points per game.
Notre Dame incoming freshman guard and United States co-captain Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) did not play in Monday's win over Canada due to an illness. Diggins had started the first three games of the FIBA U19 World Championships, ranking second on the team in scoring (11.7 ppg.) and assists (2.7 apg.), while also grabbing 2.7 rebounds per outing. Her availability for Tuesday's matchup with unbeaten Russia will be a game-time decision.
With Diggins sidelined, Samantha Prahalis and Kelsey Bone picked up some of the scoring load, tossing in a game-high 14 points apiece. U.S. co-captain Nnemkadi Ogwumike added her second double-double of the tournament with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Collectively, the United States didn't shoot the ball particularly well, making 25-of-78 shots (32.1 percent) and misfiring on all seven three-point attempts. However, the Americans held Canada to an even lower shooting percentage (.253, 19-of-75) and forced 21 Maple Leaf turnovers, making up for Canada's 46-38 rebounding edge.
Kayla Alexander scored a team-high 12 points and Laura Dally registered 10 points for Canada (2-2), while Taryn Wicijowski snared a game-high 16 rebounds.
"We wanted to get Kelsey Bone going, and she did," said Carol Owens, USA and Northern Illinois University head coach (and Notre Dame assistant coach from 1996-2005). "Sammy (Prahalis) really stepped up big and played a lot of minutes for us tonight. Not having Skylar, we had to have some people step up. Kelly (Faris) stepped us for us, also Lay (Clarendon) did a great job of coming off the bench and contributing.
"They outrebounded us," Owens continued. "We knew they were going to be a very good rebounding team. They have (Kayla) Alexander underneath and she was probably leading the tournament in rebounds coming into our game. That was important for us."
It took almost seven minutes for the USA to find its rhythm. After eight lead changes and three knotted scores, Canada hit a bucket a 3:21 to go up 10-7. Owens called a timeout to regroup and her strategy worked.
Out of the timeout, the United States put full-court pressure on Canada, frustrating the Maple Leafs into no less than three turnovers over a three-minute span, while its offense went to work on the opposite end. At 3:01, Layshia Clarendon, who finished with six points, hit a bucket from a Prahalis assist. That, along with continuous defensive pressure by the American women, sparked a 15-1 scoring run that saw six different players score and by the end of the first quarter the U.S. was up 22-12. In all, Canada was forced into five turnovers and made just 5-of-18 attempts from the field in the first stanza.
"In the first quarter we were really concerned with their size," Owens said. "They start a pretty big lineup and we had to decide what defense would be best for us. We felt like transition would be a key, we wanted to pick up a little bit full court to get the game going in our favor. Initially we started the game out slow and we had to pick it up defensively. We did that. We caught them by surprise by picking them up full court. It really disrupted what they wanted to do. I was very pleased with that."
The lead quickly ballooned to 18 points as the USA opened the second quarter on a 12-4 run to take a 34-16 lead at 6:58. With 2:05 to play in the half, the U.S. was up 39-20. However, the U.S. lapsed on defense, Dally hit back-to-back threes and the halftime lead was cut to 39-26.
Canada got a put-back to open the second half, however the USA reeled off 10 unanswered points, four each from Bone and Prahalis, and the U.S. held its largest lead of the game, 49-28. While Canada never seriously threatened, the USA's neighbors to the north never stopped fighting. By the end of the third quarter the score was 54-37 and Canada outscored the U.S. in the fourth quarter for the 64-50 final.
The United States will continue second-round Group F pool play at the U19 World Championships on Tuesday when it tangles with Russia at 4:15 a.m. ET (3:15 p.m. local) at the Bangkok Thai-Japan Youth Center. Russia (4-0) is one of only two remaining unbeaten teams (along with Spain) at this year's tournament, having kept its slate clean on Monday with a 67-62 win over China.
After second-round action concludes Wednesday, the top four finishers in the two six-team second-round pools will advance to the medal round -- Russia and Spain currently are atop Group F at 4-0, followed by the USA at 3-1 and Canada at 2-2. China and Japan presently are in the elimination spots at 1-3. Meanwhile, Australia leads Group E at 4-0, with the Czech Republic second at 3-1. The other four teams in that pool -- Argentina, Brazil, France and Lithuania -- all are tied at 2-2. The French result may be of interest to Notre Dame followers, as several members of the squad currently competing at the U19 Worlds in Thailand (as well as the European U18s, where France took the silver medal) also faced the Fighting Irish in an exhibition game on May 11 in Paris as part of Notre Dame's 10-day European tour -- the Fighting Irish won that contest, 77-44.
The quarterfinals, semifinals and finals of the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championships will be played on consecutive days from Friday-Sunday, with the gold medal game slated for 7 a.m. ET on Sunday. 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.
-- ND --
NOTE: USA Basketball contributed to portions of this release.