Tournament MVP Breanna Stewart averaged a team-high 16.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 1.7 steals and 24.7 minutes in leading the U.S. to its fifth straight gold medal at the FIBA U-19 World Championship in Lithuania. She also set a team-record by scoring 152 points in nine games, breaking the previous record of 147 set by former UConn great Maya Moore in 2007.
Stewart led the tournament in 3-point shooting percentage (.583; 14-of-24) and was third in free throw shooting percentage (.897; 26-of-29) and fifth in made 3-pointers. Her 3-point accuracy was also a U-19 team-record, surpassing Cappie Pondexter’s record of .571 in 2001.
Morgan Tuck averaged 13.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.1 steals and 23.0 minutes. She was second on the team in scoring and first in steals (eighth overall in the tournament).
Moriah Jefferson, who missed one game with a sprained left wrist, averaged 4.0 points, 2.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.5 steals and 19.3 minutes. She led the tournament in assist to turnover ratio (3.44; 31:9).
UConn Class of 2014 target A’ja Wilson averaged 10.9 points, 16.6 minutes and team-highs of 7.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. She was seventh in the tournament in field goal shooting percentage (.542) and rebounding, third in offensive rebounds (31) and sixth in blocks.
Here are comments from head coach Katie Meier, Jefferson, Stewart, Tuck and Wilson after winning the gold medal today (courtesy of USA Basketball) …
On Breanna Stewart’s MVP performance …
A: “She’s such a special player and just when you think she’s tapped out, she’s getting better. Even throughout this tournament, she faced a lot of different defenses and a lot of different strategies. She’s patient and she hunts her shots when we need her. She rose to the occasion and that’s kind of her M.O. Wow, it’s a joy. She is joyful. She is just so fun to coach.
“Before the game when we were in the hotel lobby, I said, `I just want you to know, I came to win.’ And she’s like `I got you coach.’ It was like, ‘wow.’ The kid’s got all that pressure on her and she told me she got me. She’s a champion.’’
Q: How does it feel to win a gold medal?
A: “It feels great. The experience has been amazing. And then to go through ups and downs while we were here, just to finally get there is great.’’
Q: What was the key to tonight’s victory?
A: “I think tempo. We rebounded well and then got the ball out and pushed it up. So once we did that they couldn’t really stay with us. That’s how we got our lead.’’
Q: How does it feel to be able to win this with two of your college teammates?
A: “It feels amazing. We have chemistry on and off the court and then winning a national championship and now a gold medal after that it’s incredible.’’
Q: You have heard the national anthem played before every single game. What was the difference tonight when it was playing as the flag was being raised?
A: “It’s like you’re representing your country and you finally got the gold. You represented your country well and you came out with the win. So it was amazing.’’
Q: How different was this world championship gold from the other golds you’ve won with USA Basketball?
A: “It was different because I had a different role. Usually I’m not one of the older players and coming into it I was looked at as a veteran because I’ve been in these situations before I’ve had to play well and try to lead my team at the same time.’’
Q: What was the key to the victory?
A: Definitely defense. You could see that they scored 20 points in the first half and then only eight in the second. I think that we really wanted to make a third quarter run and we did that, starting with our defense, which led to transition offense.’’
Q: Were you a little surprised to hear your named called as the MVP?
A: “Yeah. I was just having fun this tournament. I was really looking forward to it. Shots were falling, which is always really nice, but the gold is the most important thing.’’
On becoming the USA’s all-time leading U19 World Championship scoring leader …
A: “I think that’s news to me. Coach Meier said it after the game. But, it’s just points. You could score points and still lose the game. I’m just happy that we won the game.’’
Q: Do you think your leadership role on this team is going to help you next season at Connecticut?
A: “I definitely think it is going to help me. At UConn I was obviously an underclassman, but being really able to try to create more of a leadership role for myself, I think that will only help me at UConn.’’
Q: What did you learn from this coaching staff?
A: “From this coaching staff I learned a lot. It’s a great group of coaches from top D1 schools. I was very excited to be able to play under them. They’re on the same level that I am and I think they helped me create more of a leadership role and helped me play well.’’
Q: What was the key to tonight’s victory?
A: “I definitely think it was defense. In the second we only gave up eight points. We really focused on defending them and not letting them score. If they can’t score, they can’t win.’’
Q: How does it feel to win an NCAA championship in the same year as your second U19 World Championship gold medal?
A: “It feels great. To come out here and do it twice and with a totally different team, I think it just accounts to what USA Basketball is all about, winning gold medals.’’
On Breanna Stewart’s performance …
A: “She did really well. When she was open, taking her shots and taking good shots at that. I feel like she really came out, played her game, didn’t worry about anything else and just showed what Breanna Stewart can do.’’
Q: How did it feel to have that gold medal around your neck?
A: “It feels great. Words can’t explain the excitement that I’m going through right now. This was one of my goals is to have a gold medal. And that’s what we’ve accomplished and we worked so hard since July1 and really just to see us grow and jell together as a team it’s a great feeling.’’
Q: How much have you learned and grown as a person and as a player over this process?
A: “I’ve learned so much. I’ve just learned how to be a great teammate and also just how to hold on and play your role. That’s the most that I’ve learned here and it’s been a lot of fun.’’
Q: You guys have been together for almost a month now. How much do you enjoy playing with these guys?
A: “It’s a lot of fun. It is a lot of fun. These girls are very exciting to play with and they’re great people on and off the court. They have great attitudes. And it’s just amazing how we’ve come so far and we became so close in just matter of a few weeks. So it’s lot of fun being with these girls.’’
Q: You guys have heard the national anthem played before every single game. How much different was the meaning when it was played at the very end of the night?
A: “It was a huge meaning. Everything was going through my head. Just how much we’ve trained and put in all this work and to finally just hear that national anthem that last time when your flag’s going up it’s a great feeling.’’