07 - 15
August 2021
6 Caitlin Clark (USA)
to read

Defense wins Championships: Australia, USA battle for gold

DEBRECEN (Hungary) - Australia and the United States meet again to decide who comes away as the FIBA U19 Women's Basketball World Cup champions - just as they did two years ago in Bangkok.

The Americans came out on top on that occasion to reclaim the crown they lost in 2017 and have looked well set to defend their title and claim gold for the ninth time in the tournament's history. Meanwhile, Australia are out to avenge that loss, and - more relevant to this group - the loss they suffered earlier this week.

First blood to USA

The USA took the spoils on the second day of the competition with a comfortable 99-59 success against Australia. Caitlin Clark - who also played in the aforementioned 2019 Final - poured in 24 points to go with 9 rebounds and 7 assists in the win as her side pulled clear with a devastating 19-3 tear in the second quarter.

The previous matchup should not have too much bearing when it comes to Sunday's Final - a one-off game to decide the champions and anything can happen as seen this week, and in the history of the U19 tournament.

"We've played the USA once and we know what they can do, so we will just give it our best effort," said Australia guard, Jade Melbourne. "They are the benchmark in the world. We need to bring our 'A-game' and hopefully produce a full 40-minute performance."

USA guard, Caitlin Clark added: "When I was last on the team [in 2019], we played Australia two times as well and they were even better in the Final. I think it's going to be a really tough game and that's what you would expect in a Gold Medal game - that's why you play basketball."

Defense, defense, defense

  • Australia are conceding 52.5 points per game this week - that reduces to 43.2 if you take out USA's 99-point total.
  • USA are conceding 47.1 points per game with Spain the only opposition to pass the 60-point mark.

Defense is key for both sides and trying to limit their opponents as much as they can. The Americans have scored over 25 points in the first quarter in every game - bar their Semi-Final victory over Hungary. A solid start will be important for both sides, especially so for Australia.

"We know if our defense is there, we are going to be pretty unstoppable no matter where our offense is at," stated Clark. "Once the defense is locked in, then our offense starts to come and we start knocking down shots."

Melbourne said: "Our defense is going to have to be key. We've been locked in all week, kept teams to below their margins and we need to come out and execute our gameplan."

Stopping the USA is no easy task. The tournament favorites have shot 41-percent from three-point range and are averaging just shy of 100 points per game - boosted by their tournament record-equaling feat of 129 points in the Round of 16.

Stepping up when it counts

Melbourne leads the Gems in scoring with 13.2 points per game - top scoring in four of their six games so far, while 17-year-old Nyadiew Puoch has enjoyed a breakout streak in the knockout stages.

Puoch averaged 5.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in the Group Phase before a 15-point outing in the Round of 16 was followed by a crucial 25 points and 7 rebounds in their Quarter-Final and then a 16-point contribution in Saturday's Semi-Final triumph.

The USA have eight players averaging at least 9.0 points per game with an array of scoring options throughout their lineup. Clark leads the way with 15.2 points with fellow MVP candidate Sonia Citron adding 14.3 points, while it has been the ball movement that has impressed.

"It's really hard to describe because it is so fun," said Clark. "I think it's the best USA team I've been on. The chemistry is phenomenal and we all click together. The way we pass the ball, move the ball, knock down shots that's what makes basketball fun."

One final effort for both sides to complete their golden missions in Debrecen. Australia or USA? That is the question and defense may well decide that outcome.