Stewart leads U.S. into U-19 title game
UConn rising sophomore Breanna Stewart, coming off her first single-digit scoring game in the FIBA U-19 World Championship for Women responded in typical Breanna Stewart fashion as she had 23 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots as the U.S. defeated Australia 77-54 to advance to Sunday's gold-medal game.
Stewart had 14 points during a 21-0 first-half run as the U.S. took command of the game.
Stewart's UConn teammates Morgan Tuck (nine points, seven rebounds) and Moriah Jefferson (two points, five rebounds and four assists) also helped the U.S. advance to the title game.
The U.S. will play France, a 62-58 win over Spain, in the gold-medal game which will be played at 1:15 p.m. and will air on ESPN3.
Here are quotes from the three Huskies courtesy of USA Basketball.
On the start of tonight’s game:
We weren’t pushing the ball well. We were playing their game by slowing it down and we weren’t going into our offense right. Once we got our tempo up and started pushing the ball, we started getting shot after shot.
On the play of Breanna Stewart:
It’s a combination of everything. She was moving really well off the ball. We were setting good screens and our job as point guards is to get her the ball when she’s hot, so that’s who we were looking to feed.
How important was it to go into halftime with such a big lead?
It was great. It gave us a lot of confidence, not having to go into the third quarter where it’s a close game, where you really have to bust it open. Instead we can just play and try to gain a little more of a lead.
What was the game plan tonight against Australia?
We knew that they were a really good team, a good rebounding team, a good shooting team, and we wanted to really push it in transition and try to play our tempo and make the pace faster the entire game.
On the USA’s 21-0 run to end the first half:
My teammates did a really good job of getting me open. At that time I wanted to try and get us going as a team. Obviously any player could have done it on a team. I just made shots. People seemed to follow and it seemed to get us a pretty big lead.
Do you think the fact that you’re the most experienced veteran on this team helped you tonight?
Yes. I think definitely being a veteran, having USA Basketball experience like this helps, especially once we get to the medal rounds. I just need to help use my previous experiences to help the new people on this team.
Was the team a little nervous to start the game?
Yeah, I think both teams were a little excited. It’s the semifinal game. What else can you expect? We were expecting a good game and I think we were both excited to get going.
On playing France for the gold medal:
I was hoping to be able to play France again, just because when we played them the first time it wasn’t our best game at all. Hopefully we can show them how we really play basketball.
On the play of Breanna Stewart:
It was a mixture of things. The guards did a good job of getting it to her when she was open. I think she did a good job of moving without the ball.
How important is it that this team has veteran leadership like you, Alexis Jones and Breanna Stewart, who have won a U19 World Championship?
It’s important just because three of us have been in this same situation before. Now, we’re just trying to make sure everyone’s ready for it. I think the vets have done a great job of getting everyone ready.
What was coach telling you in the time outs that Australia called during your 21-0 run?
Just to keep up our defense. That’s what really got them out of it; we were disrupting their offense. We weren’t letting them score and we were rebounding really well. When their shots weren’t falling and they couldn’t get anything, they relaxed a little bit on defense and we took advantage of it.
Are you looking forward to playing France tomorrow night for the gold medal?
Yes. We’re very excited to try and redeem ourselves a little bit.