BALANCED TEAM EFFORT GIVES USA THEIR NINTH TITLE
For the second time in two years, USA U19 has won their title game in the FIBA U19 Tournament over Australia.
USA got a balanced scoring effort in the win, North Carolina State's Diamond John son led the way with 15 points, Caitin Clark had nine points, eight rebounds and eight assists and Lauren Betts added 14 rebounds.
Louisville signee Payton Verhulst had three points, six rebounds and three assists in 19:52 for USA in a game that was the toughest one of the tournament for USA.. The Cori Close squad held a 18-14 lead after one quarter and won thee second quarter by the same 18-14 margin to hold a 36-28 halftime lead. USA would slowly continue to increase that lead as the second half progressed, up 54 to 38 after three quarters and getting the 18-point win.
Nine of the 11 Americans on the squad played in the final and all scored. Te-Hina Paopao, the sophomore guard out of Oregon also finished in double figures for USA with 10 points and Sonja Citron -- headed to Notre Dame in the fall, added 10 points as well.
USA went 17 for 47 from the floor (36.2%) and sank nine of their 26 three-point attempts (led by Johnson's three). It wasn't a particularly good free throw line outing for USA (9 of 15 for 60%) but it's a win for them and one of the keys to victory was USA's 53-34 edge on the boards.
Australia came to contend to the title and, to their credit, didn't let USA go on any huge runs to gain dominance of the contest. For a team that had averaged 98.6 points in their first six games, USA was held to a tournament low with the 72...but defense had been a strong factor in USA's six previous wins and they held opponents to an average of 47.8 points a contest in the tournament.
Let's be objective and realistic here -- seven games in eight days is a grueling schedule and playing in a foreign country makes the USA feat all that more remarkable.
Caitlin Clark (Iowa) was named the tournament MVP and joined on the all-tournament team by teammate Sonja Citron. Also named were Jade Melbourne (Australia), Julia Boros (Hungary) and Sika Kone (Mali). Kone led all 16 teams in scoring and rebounding, as Mali finished fourth overall, falling to Hungary in the third-place game.
The experience gained by Verhulst in the tournament should prove to be invaluable as she now returns to the UofL campus to prepare for her freshmen year student-athlete on Jeff Walz's squad. She averaged 8.3 points per game in Hungary, but, much more than important that that was the experience she gained in a team setting over an extended period of time. It's a bit like what she'll walk into at Louisville. She joins a squad full of talented and "name" players who have had successes in their careers at Louisville and Verhulst should be able to mesh well into the rotation and challenge for a starting spot and significant minutes for Louisville.
So, a "job well done" to Payton and her FIBA teammates and now on to the next task, defending their ACC regular season title and going far in the NCAA Tournament.
Have a Marvelous Monday