UConn sophomore Breanna Stewart had game-highs of 20 points (6-of-8 FG) and four steals and added three rebounds in 22 minutes today to lead the U.S. to a 103-56 rout of China at the FIBA U-19 World Championship in Panavėžys, Lithuania.
The U.S., which clinched a spot in the second round, shot 53.8 percent from the field and outscored China 68-26 in the paint.
Fellow UConn sophomore Morgan Tuck added 18 points and eight rebounds in 26 minutes. Moriah Jefferson had two points, two rebounds and three assists in 16 minutes.
UConn Class of 2014 target A’ja Wilson finished with 16 points (7-of-10 FG) and a game-high 10 rebounds (six offensive) in 20 minutes.
The U.S. (2-0) will meet Mali (0-2) in its final preliminary round game Saturday at 1:15 p.m.
Here are postgame comments from Stewart and Wilson (courtesy of USA Basketball) …
Q: After China held close in the first quarter, you pulled away in the second. What contributed to that run?
A: “I think it was our defense, it definitely contributed. China is obviously a good team, so we knew that they were going to stick with us for a little bit. We knew that if we kept going after them and kept pressuring them on defense, then eventually things would start to crumble for them and open up for us.’’
Q: Were you trying to limit their 3-point shooting?
A: “Definitely. On the scouting report this morning it seemed like almost all of their guards were considered 3-point shooters. So, we just wanted to get them off the line because we know that they can shoot from deep and then if they’re going to shoot it, make it a contested three.’’
Q: Can you feel the changes in your team’s chemistry?
A: “Yeah, I think you can really feel that happening over the past two games. I know it’s only two games, but you can tell that people are more comfortable playing with each other. There have been a lot of different lineups in and it feels like there’s not a bump when a new person comes in.’’
On Moriah Jefferson’s lob to Brianna Turner …
A: “That was very nice. I was behind Bri-T, so I saw it in the making. We should do that more often.’’
Q: There was a lot of unselfish play tonight, how important is that going to be moving forward?
A: “It’s really important, because obviously it’s a team-oriented game and there might be times when one person isn’t doing so well or has an off game, so we just need to make sure that we have five people together on the court playing with each other like a team.’’
On tonight’s game …
A: “It was a lot of fun, it really was. We came out with a great mindset that our defense and offense have to be on point and we have to come together and really play as a team. Coach Meier said how we play today was going to have to be the best that we’ve played together. I think we really came out, did that and got the win.’’
Q: You struggled yesterday due to the international style of play. Do you feel you made some adjustments for this game?
A: “Yeah, yesterday was really rough. It really was. I’m not going to lie. That was probably one of the worst games that I’ve ever played. But I really came out in the second half, coach gave us another mindset, and we came out and took care of business. I think that today I warmed up to it, because that was my first big international game and I knew I was nervous and I knew I was like ‘uh oh, this is about to be weird.’ But, I think I came back tonight and really got into a flow of things and let the game come to me.’’
Q: What kind of adjustments do you have to make with your game for the international style of play?
A: “The physicality, really. These girls are physical. And the calls are different. I’m so used to playing AAU and high school, where any little touch is a foul. Here, they let you play and I love that style of basketball. That’s my biggest adjustment, just being physical and being able to hang.’’
Q: What is the team looking to improve upon?
A: “Maturity. That’s what we really need to come together. The chemistry’s actually pretty good for us not to have really played with each other, of course you have the UConn girls, but other than that, I think the chemistry is there. We just have to mature.’’