COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – USA Basketball opened its defense of the FIBA Americas U18 Championship with a commanding 104-55 win over Mexico in the first game in Group A action at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley saw her team dominate the paint (84-12) and the glass (53-17) and hold its opponent to 16 points or fewer in each 10-minute quarter of the game. South Carolina incoming freshman A’ja Wilson drew the start and answered with the game’s only double-double with 15 points and a game-high 10 rebounds in 23 minutes of action.
Wilson’s stat stuffing started early with an offensive board and put-back on the U.S.’s first possession of the game. The Americans built a 12-2 lead just over three minutes into the game. With 5:08 to go in the first quarter, it was a 14-2 U.S. lead, but Mexico launched an 8-2 surge over the next three minutes to draw within six points at 16-10. Wilson’s work on the defensive glass helped stop the spurt as she pulled down Mexico misses on back-to-back possessions, while Jessica Shepard added a pair of buckets to get the U.S. back to a double-digit lead at 20-10 with 1:43 left in the quarter.
Team USA’s defense forced Mexico to take outside shots, which were not dialed in for the visiting team. Meanwhile, the host team’s front line cleaned up the glass to launch a 6-0 run that closed the first quarter with a 26-10 U.S. lead. The second quarter was more of the same and the Americans kept their foot on the gas offensively, adding to their 6-0 first-quarter run by scoring the first eight points of the second unanswered, including a pair of makes from Brianna Turner, the last of which made it a 34-10 U.S. lead with 8:14 to go in the half.
A Mexico 3-pointer stopped its four-minute scoreless drought, but the visitors could not capitalize on a lull in the Team USA offensive efficiency. The Americans took a 47-24 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Staley’s team opened the third quarter with another 8-0 surge fueled by Mexico’s inability to find its range from outside the 3-point arc. Behind Shepard’s basket with 6:43 left in the quarter, the Americans had stretched their lead into the 30s, and Mexico would never close the gap. Team USA led 79-40 at the end of the third quarter, and the margin was +40 two minutes into the fourth.
Team USA shot 56.0 percent from the field, including 70.0 percent from Wilson (7-of-10). The Americans turned 18 Mexico turnovers into 26 points and converted 17 offensive rebounds into 22 points. Wilson’s 15 points was second-highest on the team, trailing just the 16 by both Turner and Shepard. The Gamecock freshman added a block and two assists to her production.
Group play continues on Thursday with the U.S. taking on El Salvador at 7:30 p.m. (ET).