Aug. 4, 2007
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia -- Notre Dame rising sophomore guard Melissa Lechlitner (Mishawaka, Ind./South Bend St. Joseph's) collected two steals and two rebounds as the United States defeated Spain, 69-46 in the semifinals of the FIBA U19 World Championships on Saturday at NTC Arena in Bratislava, Slovakia. The USA (8-0) now has won 17 consecutive games and 28 of its last 30 outings in the U19 tournament, dating back to the 1997 event.
With Saturday's victory, the United States advances to the gold medal game at the U19 World Championships for the third time, having previously won titles in 1997 and 2005. The Americans will meet up with Sweden (6-2) in this year's championship clash, scheduled for Sunday at 2:15 p.m. ET (8:15 p.m. in Bratislava). Playing in its first U19 World Championship, Sweden was an 85-75 upset winner over previously unbeaten Serbia in Saturday's other semifinal. Live in-progress statistics from Sunday's gold medal game between the USA and Sweden can be found at the official tournament web site.
Maya Moore led the United States with a game-high 24 points against Spain, scoring 20 points in the second half (15 in the third quarter alone). No other American player scored in double figures during the contest, with Vicki Baugh adding eight points and a game-high nine rebounds for the U.S., which turned one of its best defensive performances of the tournament. The red, white and blue held Spain to a .295 field goal percentage (18-of-61), including a 1-of-14 (.071) mark from three-point range and dominated the rebounding battle by a 57-33 margin. Laura Nicholls had 11 points and Tamara Abalde chipped in 10 points for Spain, which also quashed its chances by going a dismal 9-of-26 (.346) from the free throw line.
The semifinal matchup with Spain (5-3) was expected to be a grueling one for the United States, following a pair of close American victories over its European counterpart in the past two weeks (once in an exhibition, once in a U19 second-round game). That perception held true for the opening three minutes, as the Spaniards scored six of the first eight points. The USA came back with an 8-0 run to take the lead for good, although Spain stayed within a single possession for the balance of the opening quarter. Another 9-0 spurt put the American lead at 25-14 when Moore hit a jumper with 7:36 left in the second period. That margin held up until right before the halftime horn, when Nicholls' basket got the Spaniards back within 32-24.
The United States stormed from the locker room in the third quarter, going on a 14-4 run during the first five minutes of play. Moore had eight points in the surge, including a three-pointer for a 46-28 U.S. lead at the 5:18 mark. Spain rallied back with an 11-2 run of its own, trimming the gap to 48-39 on Abalde's basket with 2:12 remaining in the quarter. However, Moore then scored 12 points in a 19-0 American run that stretched into the fourth period and assured the USA of its place in Sunday's gold-medal game.