TUNIS, Tunisia -- The USA U19 Women's World Championship Basketball Team advanced to the gold medal game of the 2005 U19 World Championships after posting a 99-68 semifinal victory over China Saturday night in Tunis.
The undefeated Americans (7-0), who feature 5-10 incoming University of Texas freshman guard Erika Arriaran (Norco, Calif.), are now within one victory of claiming the gold medal, something it has done just once (in 1997) in the five previous U19 World Championships (formerly known as the Junior World Championship). The USA will meet surprise finalist Serbia & Montenegro (4-3) in Sunday's (July 24) gold medal game after Serbia surprised Russia in the other semifinal, 78-65.
The USA and Serbia & Montenegro met July 17 in preliminary pool play and the USA took a 94-68 decision. Russian and China play for the silver medal on Sunday.
The USA squad was paced by its leading scorer, Maryland 6-3 forward Crystal Langhorne (23 points), while 6-3 forward Nicky Anosike (Tennesssee) added 15 points and a team-high five steals. Arriaran played 16 minutes against China off the bench, scoring two points with two assists and three rebounds.
Through seven games in the FIBA tourney, Arriaran has played off the bench in all seven contests, averaging 4.6 points and 2.9 assists per contest. She is tied for second in USA assists (with 20), and is averaging 16.6 minutes per game.
In the USA-China game, the USA led by a single point, 24-23, after the first quarter. A critical point in the game came midway through the first quarter when China's second leading scorer, forward Liu Dan (15.8 ppg) picked up her third personal foul. Although she remained in the game, the U.S. consistently went inside against her. Dan was held to just six points in the game.
The game remained a tight battle, and was deadlocked 30-30 with 7:05 left in the second quarter before the USA switched to a zone defense. The USA's zone held China to just 1-for-13 shooting for the remainder of the quarter, as the Chinese connected on one 3-pointer. The U.S. whipped off 10 straight points to take a 40-30 lead with 3:24 left before halftime. Following a 3-pointer from China's Lu Lu, the U.S. closed the stanza by reeling off nine more points and took a 49-33 edge into halftime.
"We were able to get No. 11 (Liu Dan) their best player in foul trouble and that was a big difference in the game," said U.S. and Duke University head coach Gail Goestenkors. "We were having difficulties stopping China. They're an outstanding offensive team and they were just giving us fits. It felt like they were scoring every time down the floor. When we switched to the zone we really disrupted their flow and caused them a lot of problems. Our defense ignited our offense and that's how we were able to build our lead before halftime,"
The second half never saw China get closer than 18 points, as the U.S. expanded its lead to 75-48 after three quarters, then cruised to the 31-point win. The USA made 42 of its 66 shots for a sizzling 63.6 shooting percentage. China was limited to 27-of-65 (.415 percent) shooting from the floor, and hit just 6-of-20 (.300 percent) from 3-point range. The USA had 14 steals to China's five, and the Americans also held the edge in rebounding (35-21).
In Saturday's consolation semifinals, South Korea routed Hungary 92-70, while Spain overcame a 10 point halftime deficit to upend Australia 77-68. In the game to decide ninth place, Canada (3-4) slipped past Puerto Rico (2-5) 71-64, while Congo (1-6) earned its first win of the tournament and captured 11th place with a 78-60 victory over host Tunisia (0-7).
2005 FIBA U19 Women's World Championships- at Tunis, Tunisia
Note: times listed are local and five hours ahead of Central Time
Saturday, July 23 (Semifinal Round)
Game 39: South Korea 92, Hungary 70
Game 40: Spain 77, Australia 68
Game 41: USA 99, China 68
Game 42: Serbia & Montenegro 78, Russia 65
11th/12th Place: Congo 78, Tunisia 60
9th/10th Place: Canada 71, Puerto Rico 64
Sunday, July 24 (Finals)
10:00 a.m. 7th/8th Place: Hungary vs. Australia
Noon 5th/6th Place: South Korea vs. Spain
4:30 p.m. Bronze Medal Game: China vs. Russia
6:30 p.m. Gold Medal Game: USA vs. Serbia & Montenegro