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Basketball - 20. June 2007.

USA/FRA - U21 women squad passes first test with victory over French

MONTE CARLO (FIBA U21 World Championship for Women) – The USA, which was tied at halftime 36-all, was bolstered by 12 points apiece from DeWanna Bonner (Auburn / Fairfield, Ala.) and Kia Vaughn (Rutgers / Bronx, N.Y.), while Essence Carson (Rutgers / Paterson, N.J.) notched 10.

The USA is preparing to defend its world title in this age group, open to athletes 21-years-old or younger (born on or after Jan. 1, 1986), at the 2007 FIBA U21 World Championship for Women, held this year June 29-July 8 in Moscow, Russia.

The USA and French U21 squads will meet twice more, at 7:00 p.m. (1:00 p.m. EDT) on June 19 in Antibes, France, and at 7:00 p.m. (1:00 p.m. EDT) on June 21 in La Garde, France. The Americans will remain in Antibes and train through June 25 before traveling to Moscow for the U21 Worlds.

"I think the team worked very hard, obviously we did much better in the third (quarter) defensively," said USA U21 National Team and Duke University (N.C.) head coach Joanne P. McCallie. "Holding them to 31-7 in the third quarter was very significant. I thought we were much nicer, more aggressive in the second half. We’re just going to try to put quarters together. There was one superlative quarter, that was the third, which really made a difference for us. It was a total team effort, I thought everybody got better and I thought we got a little more physical when we needed to. We have to take this and go onto the next one."

The United States, which began practicing in Colorado Springs, Colo., on June 12, got off to a sluggish start as France, after trailing 17-13 at the first quarter break, pulled it even at 36 points at the half. The USA’s struggles produced 17 turnovers in the first half and the squad shot just 33.3 percent from the line (4-12 FTs) during that span.

"After a long day of traveling we were ready to start playing," said Wiggins. "In the first half I think we had to get the kinks out. There were a lot of turnovers, we weren’t really in the flow. Once we got into the flow in the third quarter, we really got things going and opened things up. We really got a lot of confidence in that and I think it sent a message."

However, the USA righted its course and came out of the locker room on an 11-0 tear to start the second half. After allowing a French field goal at 6:30, the American women produced another run that expanded the lead to 60-38 with 13:45 to go in the contest. By the end of the third quarter the lead was 67-43 and the U.S. cruised in for the 82-59 victory.

"Turnovers killed us a lot in the first half," said Bonner. "Everybody’s still trying to get use to playing together, we’re trying to gel and get that chemistry going. I think that once we get the experience with each other we’ll get more and more comfortable as time goes on."

While Bonner, Carson, Vaughn and Wiggins combined for 48 points, Abby Waner (Duke / Highlands Ranch, Colo.) and Courtney Paris (Oklahoma / Piedmont, Calif.) led on the glass with eight and seven rebounds, respectively. Waner passed out a team-best four assists and she and Paris notched four steals apiece.

In contrast to the first half, the United States coughed up the ball just 11 times in the second half. After shooting 47.1 percent (16-34 FGs) from the field in the first half, the USA finished at an even 50.0 percent (30-60 FGs) for the game. The USA, which allowed France to shoot 46.4 percent (13-28 FGs) overall in the first half to stay in the game, held the hosts to 28.6 percent (10-35 FGs) in the second. The USA outrebounded France 54-33.

McCallie is being assisted by collegiate head coaches Sam Dixon of Furman University (S.C.), an assistant to McCallie last summer with the 2006 USA U20 National Team, and Arizona State University’s Charli Turner Thorne.

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