Stewart, Tuck, Jefferson Lead U.S. Past Canada At U-19s

UConn sophomore Breanna Stewart had 14 points, two rebounds and two blocks in 24 minutes today to lead the U.S. to an 88-54 victory over Canada in the second round of the FIBA U-19 World Championship in Panavėžys, Lithuania.

The U.S., which clinched a spot in the quarterfinals, turned the game into a rout by scoring the final eight points of the first half and the first 11 of the third quarter. Overall, the U.S. outscored Canada 31-11 in the third quarter to open a 78-42 lead.

Morgan Tuck added 13 points and a game-high four steals in 23 minutes. Moriah Jefferson finished with five points, a game-high seven assists and three steals in 17 minutes.

UConn Class of 2014 target A’ja Wilson had seven points, a game-high nine rebounds and three blocks in 22 minutes.

Also of note … Fairfield incoming freshman Samantha Cooper had 10 points, three rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes for Canada.

The U.S. (5-0) will conclude second-round pool play Wednesday against France (5-0) at 1:15 p.m. The quarterfinals will be played Friday, while the semifinals and finals will be held Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Here are postgame comments from Jefferson, Tuck and Wilson (courtesy of USA Basketball) …

Q: How much has Canada changed as a team since you played them in Lanzarote, Canary Islands?
A: “I think they were a lot more physical tonight. They came out, especially on defense, packing it in and being really aggressive. And then on offense they were very efficient.’’

Q: Is that how they were able to keep the game close through most of the first half?
A: “Yeah, basically. They came out running their sets well. They kind of took us out of our rhythm a little bit, but then we kind of got back in the flow after that.’’

On the play of Alexis Jones (17 points, five rebounds, seven assists) …
A: “Incredible. She came out on fire, so I was like, ‘Well, wherever Lex is, that’s where I’m going to try to get the ball to.’ I think we all as a team recognized it and we just fed the beast.’’

On the USA’s 22 assists on 35 baskets …
A: “We want to be able to get a lot of scores off of assists, so that we don’t have to try to create our own shot. We can penetrate and kick or duck in for the post, things like that.’’

On the USA’s 19-0 run …
A: “It was a combination of defensive pressure and Nia Coffey, honestly. She came in and got like three steals in a row, something like that, some assists, a couple buckets. She came in and made a huge improvement on the game.’’

Q: How was Canada able to limit your scoring in the fourth quarter (10 points)?
A: “We kind of got out of our rhythm on offense. Once we got out of it, we never got that flow back and then we ended up having a five-minute run without scoring. That’s something that’s not acceptable. We’ll look over it in film and fix it.’’

On the USA’s 8-0 run to close out the first half …
A: “First of all, I thought our defense wasn’t as good as it usually is and we were letting them get dribble penetration. But I think that once we really refocused and got ourselves together, we got back into it.’’

Q: Were you looking past Canada, knowing you had beaten the team by 20 in the Canary Islands?
A: “I don’t think we looked past them, but I think we needed to be more prepared on how hard they were going to come at us. This was a game they needed to win and we can’t let them do that, obviously.’’

Q: What were they running against you?
A: “They have a lot of sets. They go through their sets and they get the shot they want to get. We needed to really try to disrupt that and not let them get the shot they wanted and play our best defense on their best player.’’

On the play of Alexis Jones …
A: “Lex played great. I think she recognized when she could take the ball to the basket if she was open and we need more of that.’’

Q: What do you know about France?
A: “They’re a very good and athletic team and I think that we really need to pick our stuff a little bit, pick it up defensively and be ready for them because they’re going to come at us strong tomorrow.’’