July 21, 2007
SANTA CRUZ DE LA PALMA, Canary Islands — Notre Dame rising sophomore guard Melissa Lechlitner (Mishawaka, Ind./South Bend St. Joseph’s) scored eight points and added two assists without a turnover to help the USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team topple Spain, 79-71 in the finale of a three-game exhibition tournament on Saturday afternoon in Santa Cruz de La Palma, Canary Islands. The U.S. went undefeated at the Pre-U19 World Championship Tournament, taking the event title over the host country, Spain (2-1), with Australia (1-2) and Brazil (0-3) also participating.
Lechlitner was a steady presence off the bench for the United States in each of its three preseason contests, playing 20 minutes on Saturday against Spain and connecting on both of her three-point attempts (3-of-8 overall from the field). Jantel Lavender led three Americans in double figures with 14 points, while Maya Moore and Monica Wright chipped in with 11 points apiece. The U.S. actually trailed at the half, 34-32, but opened the third quarter on an 18-2 run behind some frenetic full-court pressure, and Spain was never able to recover.
“We didn’t come out with any intensity, and we played a soft first two quarters,” said USA U19 and DePaul University head coach Doug Bruno. “The coaches made a decision at halftime to take advantage of our athleticism and use a full-court pressure defense. We wanted to slow Spain down and jump start some momentum and intensity on our side of the ball. It worked, and then we started to execute a little bit better in our half-court offense.”
The Stars & Stripes improved their shooting performance for the third consecutive day, hitting at a .508 pace (31-of-61) from the field, including a sharp 6-of-10 effort from beyond the three-point line. However, the U.S. once again suffered from turnover problems, giving the ball away 29 times in the contest. During the three-game exhibition tournament, the USA averaged 25.7 turnovers per game.
Lechlitner looked strong in this week’s competition, averaging 8.7 points per game with a .455 field goal percentage (10-of-22) and a .500 three-point percentage (3-of-6). She also did a solid job of running the point for the U.S., logging a 1.25 assist/turnover ratio (five assists, four turnovers) and helping pilot an American offense that averaged 77.7 points per game.
“This pre-competition tournament has been very useful for us because we have such a young group,” Bruno said. “They needed to experience all the adversity we’ve dealt with, the tough travel and arriving just a few hours before our first game, before we travel to play in the World Championship. Every single player on the team has done some good things, and now it is about finding consistency.”
The U.S. contingent will spend the next couple of days traveling through Europe, with featured stops in Madrid (Spain) and Vienna (Austria). The United States will open the U19 World Championship on July 26 with a Group B first-round game against Ivory Coast — tipoff time from Bratislava, Slovakia, is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. EDT (8:15 p.m. in Bratislava).
— ND —