USA survives against Spain

Bratislava, Slovakia - The 2007 USA Women's U19 World Championship Team (5-0) needed all four quarters and 28 points from Jantel Lavender to secure a late 74-66 win over Spain (3-2) on Tuesday night in second-round action of the 2007 U19 World Championship For Women.

Incoming Tennessee Lady Vol rookie Vicki Baugh made the most of her 13 minutes by connecting on 4-of-5 field goals for eight points with four rebounds and two steals. Fellow UT newcomer Angie Bjorklund was limited to seven minutes and missed her only field goal attempt.

After the game, the future Lady Vols had this to say.

"This was the most physical and the fastest team we've played, and their game was similar to ours," Baugh said. "They have to be the toughest team we've faced so far. We were focused for the game, but I think we were expecting to be able to just take off from the start, and we didn't. Alba (Torrens) played strong and we had some trouble adjusting to her."

Baugh said her role on the team is "whatever helps the team ... . If that takes me getting the energy flowing, that's fine with me. Whether I'm starting or coming off the bench I know I have to be strong down low."

Baugh said the USA has the capability to play much better.

"I think both our guards and posts are much stronger and faster than the other teams, and we should be dominating," she said. "It's just a matter of playing our game."

Bjorklund, a fellow Lady Vol rookie-to-be, said, "Tonight was definitely a wake-up call. We learned we can't just walk into a gym and expect to beat people by 50 points every time just because we have U-S-A across our chest. We learned we will have to work harder for our all wins from this point on.

"It was almost more dissapointing than satisfying tonight because we can play so much better than that. Especially as a team together on defense, we need to start with that. We have enough talent that our offense will come.

"Towards the end tonight, we started to realize we had to get Jantel the ball. She was unstoppable. But we need to start figuring that stuff out earlier. And fouls. Fouls killed us the whole game tonight."

The USA squad apparently knows it escaped with a win.

"We were lucky tonight because we put ourselves in a position through unintelligent play to lose, yet we gutted out a win when it came down to crunch time," said USA U19 and DePaul University head coach Doug Bruno.

"When we needed to make plays we did. When I say unintelligent play, I'm not talking about unintelligent players. I'm talking about having nine players who will be college freshmen in the fall. We really don't have an understanding yet of how to differentiate between our open court game and our half-court game. That's our big challenge."

Headed into the fourth quarter, the scoreboard read an even 52-52, as the USA had outscored Spain 23-20 in first period, Spain had outscored the USA 17-14 in the second period and both teams had tallied 15 points in the third.

But just 15 seconds into the fourth quarter, a 3-pointer from Spain's Jael Freixanet sparked a 7-4 Spain run that left the score 59-56 in Spain's advantage with 8:23 on the clock.

Over the next four minutes, however, Spain scored just two points while the USA tallied seven, including two points from Vicki Baugh and Lavender and a deep three from Jasmine Thomas, to recapture a 63-61 lead with 4:21 remaining.

"The third quarter was an average quarter for us, and we ended up tied again, right back where we had started," Maya Moore said. "But the fourth quarter we came together and Jasmine hit a big three for us and our energy level really picked up."

Spain attempted to stop the onslaught with a timeout at 3:41, but behind five more points from Lavender, the USA outscored Spain 11-5 to finish the game and secure a 74-66 win.

"I think I was just a lot stronger than their post players," Lavender said. "They let me get in front of them, so I was just posting them up. It was simple. I realized in the first quarter they couldn't stop me, and in the second half, they didn't change anything, so I just kept taking it to the rim."

In addition to Lavender, who recorded a double-double with 13 rebounds, the USA was led by 19 points and five rebounds from Moore; nine points, seven assists and five steals from Monica Wright; eight points and four rebounds from Baugh; six points and five assists from Jasmine Thomas; and six rebounds and blocked four shots from Allyssa DeHaan.

Spain's Alba Torrens led her team with 18 points, followed by Anna Carbo with 17, including 7-of-7 from the free throw line, and 12 points from Tamara Abalde.

The USA will close second-round action against the first place squad from Group A, Slovakia (5-0), at 6:00 p.m. on Aug. 1. All times listed are local, Central European Time, which is +6 hours from Eastern Daylight Time.

The 2007 U19 World Championship quarterfinals are slated for Aug. 3, semifinals will be held Aug. 4, and the gold medal will be contested Aug. 5.

In today's earlier action, Japan (2-3) secured 13th place with a 74-72 win over Argentina (1-4), who finished 14th; and Mali (1-4) topped Ivory Coast (0-5) 63-32 to claim 15th place finish, with the Ivory Coast placing 16th in the 2007 FIBA U19 World Championship For Women.

Bruno is assisted on the sidelines by Cynthia Cooper-Dyke of Prairie View A&M University and Carol Owens of Northern Illinois.

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