July 28, 2009
BANGKOK, Thailand -- Behind a strong fourth-quarter effort, the United States U19 National Team surged past previously unbeaten Russia, 75-56 on Tuesday in a Group F second-round game at the FIBA U19 World Championships inside the Bangkok Thai-Japan Youth Center in Bangkok, Thailand. It was the fourth consecutive victory for the Stars & Stripes (4-1) since its opening-day loss to Spain, and Tuesday's win puts the USA in position to not only advance to the medal round, but also clinch the top seed in their group when the knockout stage begins on Friday.
After missing Monday's win over Canada due to an illness, Notre Dame incoming freshman guard and United States co-captain Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) was back in the starting lineup for Tuesday's win over Russia, chalking up 10 points and four rebounds in 24 minutes of action. American co-captain Nnemkadi Ogwumike tallied her third double-double of the tournament, and second in as many games, with 12 points and 13 rebounds, while Shenise Johnson had 11 points and nine rebounds and Samantha Prahalis was credited with 10 points and seven assists.
Once again, the United States defense was the story, as the Americans held the Russians to a dismal .263 field goal percentage (20-of-76), including only 7-of-29 (.241) from three-point range. The USA also won the battle on the boards by a 50-34 margin and forced 16 Russian turnovers. In the four games since its loss to Spain, the American side has not allowed more than 56 points in a game, holding its opponents to 49.3 ppg. in that span.
No player scored in double figures in the contest for Russia (4-1), with Anastasiya Shilova and Tatiana Grigoryeva coming off the bench to score a team-high seven points apiece.
"There were times when we would stretch it out and then let them back in," said Carol Owens, USA and Northern Illinois University head coach (and an assistant coach at Notre Dame from 1996-2005). "In the second half, we executed well down the stretch. Our defense picked up and by the fourth quarter we wore them down a little bit. It was a great effort.
"We thought it would be a little closer than it was, but we had a shot with Skylar being back," Owens added. "She wasn't 100 percent, but Sammy (Prahalis) stepped up really big, she played a lot of minutes for us tonight. We felt like we needed her on the floor, needed her leadership on the floor. Chay Shegog and LaSondra Barrett did a great job for us coming off the bench. They have the experience of playing one year in college and know how to defend those types of post players."
Playing for the first time in three days, Diggins looked refreshed early on, hitting her first three shots, including an old-fashioned three-point play, as the USA ran out to a 9-3 lead. Russia tied the score at 15-all with 2:40 to go in the first quarter, but at the buzzer the Americans were back up by six points, 23-17.
Swapping baskets through most of the second period, Layshia Clarendon hit a three near the end of the first half to give her side a 40-32 advantage heading into the locker room.
The third period got started with Russia jumping back in front, 45-44, at 6:27. During their 13-4 run, the Russians nailed a pair of threes and held the U.S. to 2-of-8 shooting from the field. The game remained close over the next several minutes and at 2:56, Grigoryeva hit a three-pointer that tied the game for the last time at 50-50.
Barrett scored off an inbounds pass at 2:23 to give the United States the lead for good, 52-50. From there the red, white and blue forced Russia into a pair of turnovers and missing all six of its shots from the field as the U.S. closed the period up by five points, 55-50.
The fourth quarter was all USA as the Americans outscored Russia, 20-6 in the final stanza. Ripping off 10 unanswered points to start the period, the USA held Russia scoreless for over five minutes as the Europeans missed their first 10 attempts. By the time Russia put up its first points of the quarter, the U.S. owned the game, 65-52 with 4:31 to play.
Russia, which hit its second basket of the fourth quarter with 1:48 to play, shot a frigid 15.8 percent (3-19 FGs) from the field in the final 10 minutes of the game, including 0-of-7 from three-point range. In contrast, the USA, which outrebounded Russia 15-6 in the fourth quarter, hit 40 percent (6-15 FGs) from the field.
"We tried to step up the defensive intensity," Diggins said about the USA's fourth quarter play. "We started our offense with our defense. This team loves to push. We finally sat our butts down and got some steals, got out. People were coming off the bench ready to play and that's what we need. We got out to a big lead and held them."
The United States wraps up second-round pool play Wednesday at 2 a.m. ET (1 p.m. local) against Japan (2-3) at the Bangkok Thai-Japan Youth Center. Should the Americans win, and Russia defeat 5-0 Spain later in the day, it would create a three-way tie for first place in Group F that would require multiple FIBA tiebreakers to sort out.
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.
NOTE: USA Basketball contributed to portions of this release.