Stewart, Tuck Lead U.S. To Win Over France At U-19s

UConn sophomore Breanna Stewart had a game-high 22 points, six rebounds and two blocks in 32 minutes today to lead the U.S. to a 69-63 victory over previously unbeaten France in its final game of the second round of the FIBA U-19 World Championship in Panavėžys, Lithuania.

The U.S., which clinched the No. 1 spot in Group F, shot just 39.7 percent from the field.

Morgan Tuck added 14 points, four rebounds, three assists and a game-high three steals in 35 minutes. She also assisted on a clutch 3-pointer by Duke point guard Alexis Jones with 28 seconds left and the U.S. leading 65-63.

Moriah Jefferson finished with five points, three assists and two steals in 17 minutes.

UConn Class of 2014 target A’ja Wilson had eight points, a game-high nine rebounds and two blocks in 17 minutes.

The U.S. (6-0) will meet Japan (3-3) in the quarterfinals Friday at 1:15 p.m. With a win, the U.S. would meet the Australia/China-winner in the semifinals Saturday.

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

Q: How tough was tonight’s game against France?
A: “It was really tough. I think that was the most consistent team we played. They kept coming at us. They played great, but when it really came down to it, we really stepped up our defense so that they had a really hard time getting shots.’’

Q: On the 3-pointer by Alexis Jones:
A: “That was great. I wasn’t sure she was going to get it off in time. I saw the shot clock and Morgan had it with two seconds (to go) in her hands, but I knew she just had to shoot it and I was hoping it was going in.’’

Q: Was it good to get a game like that under your belt heading into the medal round?
A: “I definitely think it’s good. To play a team of that caliber in the second round is wonderful so it can get us prepared for the medal rounds, because teams are only going to get better. We might meet up with France again.’’

Q: How were you feeling tonight, having to play so many minutes?
A: “I was feeling good. I loved the time outs, it’s nice to get some air and some water, but in a game like that you want to be in the game.’’

Q: “Was it good to get a game like that under your belt heading into the medal round?
I think so. We really haven’t had a close game since we played our exhibition against Australia. So, I think it gave us a good feel of how the medal rounds will be and how we have to make sure that we really focus in and be deliberate on offense and defense.’’

Q: With time winding down on the shot clock, you passed the ball to Alexis Jones, who hit the 3-pointer. Will you walk me through that possession?
A: “I saw B (Bashaara Graves) get the rebound and I saw they were really collapsing, so I called for it. I didn’t see the shot clock, but I saw Alexis wide open. So, I just passed it to her and she let it go and it went in.’’

Q: How huge was the 3-point attempt that she blocked on the other end?
A: “It was really big. That was a really big play that we needed. We needed a stop and that’s what we were struggling to get. I think she did a great job of being really tough on the offensive end and then coming right back and being tough on defense.’’

Q: What can you tell the younger kids about what you’re going to face in the medal round?
A: “Kind of like today, they’re all going to be really big games. The teams are great, so we just have to make sure we have the focus like we had today toward the end of the game more. We’re going to have games where each possession matters and not always games where it’s a 30-point or 40-point margin.’’

On tonight’s game …
A: “It was a good one. We have respect for them; they have respect for us. We knew that when we came out after scrimmaging them that it was going to be a hard one. But, we came out and took care of business. It was a great game.’’

Q: Was it good to get a game like that under your belt heading into the medal round?
A: “I think it’s really good, because we learned from it. Even though we won we can still learn from it. It’s something that will wake us up a little bit, because we’ve been killing teams here. To have a close game, it knocked us back to reality. This road to gold is not about to be easy. It was a really good game to get under our belt.’’

Q: How important are veterans like Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck to this team in a game like tonight?
A: “They are the backbone to this team. They are coming off of a NCAA championship and they have great leadership. They really help us out. I know they help me out especially. Out on the court, me being a rookie and getting a chance to play with them and feeding off of them, it’s just a positive all the way around.’’