Aug. 1, 2007
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia -- Paced by a strong all-around performance from Notre Dame rising sophomore guard Melissa Lechlitner (Mishawaka, Ind./South Bend St. Joseph's), the United States stayed unbeaten and clinched the top spot in Group E with an 84-60 second-round win over Slovakia at the FIBA U19 World Championships on Wednesday at NTC Arena in Bratislava, Slovakia. Lechlitner had arguably her most complete effort of the tournament to date, finishing with eight points (3-5 FG, 2-4 FT), game highs of five assists and four steals, and four rebounds, all in only 21 minutes of action.
Maya Moore led three players in double figures for the U.S. (6-0), scoring a game-high 24 points, while Jantel Lavender posted a double-double with 14 points and a game-best 11 rebounds. Angie Bjorklund came off the bench to add 11 points (all in the first half), as the United States bounced back from its teeth-gnashing 74-66 win over Spain a night earlier with a much sharper outing against the host country. The Stars and Stripes connected at a .470 clip from the floor (31-of-66), while holding Slovakia to a .309 field goal percentage (21-of-68). The rebounding column also tipped in the USA's favor by a 48-40 count, with the visitors forcing 22 Slovakian turnovers (14 coming on U.S. steals). Regina Palusna paced Slovakia with 21 points and seven rebounds.
Playing before a near-capacity partisan crowd, the Americans spent much of the first quarter cautiously feeling out their opponents. Neither side led by more than a single possession until the closing stages of the period, before Italee Lucas scored five points in the final 20 seconds of play, including a buzzer-beating halfcourt shot to give the United States a 25-17 lead after one frame.
Slovakia (5-1) tried to stay within striking distance, trimming its deficit to 27-24 when Nikola Kovalova hit a jumper with 8:36 to go in the first half. However, the USA came back with consecutive buckets by Lavender, Moore and Lechlitner during the next 90 seconds to take its largest lead to that point. The hosts clawed to within five points later in the quarter, but the Americans closed on a 7-0 run and held Slovakia without a field goal during the final four minutes of the half to grab a 49-34 advantage at the break.
The United States then iced the victory early in the third quarter, going on an 11-3 run after spotting Slovakia the opening basket of the period. Moore punctuated the surge with an old-fashioned three-point play at the 6:09 mark and the spread never dipped below 17 points the rest of the night.
With the victory, the USA locked up one of two No. 1 seeds for the medal round, which gets underway Friday. The Americans will square off with the Czech Republic (3-3) in one quarterfinal at 7:30 a.m. ET (1:30 p.m. in Bratislava), with Spain (4-2) and Australia (5-1) set to lock horns in the other quarterfinal on the U.S. side of the bracket. On the lower half of the tree, Group F champion Serbia (6-0) will meet South Korea (3-3), while Slovakia prepares to tangle with Sweden (4-2). Live in-progress statistics from all games at the 2007 FIBA U19 World Championships can be found at the official tournament web site.