CHEKHOV, Russia- South Carolina forward A’ja Wilson broke the USA Basketball record for points scored in a FIBA U19 World Championship game as her 30 powered the Americans past Russia 78-70 at the Sports Palace Olympiskyi on Sunday.
The United States needed runs late in both halves to hold off the host Russians as head coach Dawn Staley steered USA Basketball to its sixth-straight gold medal at the event.
Wilson earned tournament MVP honors after averaging 22.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists over the seven games.
Russia took advantage of early U.S. turnovers to claim a 21-19 lead after the first quarter and stretched the advantage to 27-19 early in the second period. Staley called timeout, and Wilson took over, hitting the first and last baskets of a 6-0 run that launched an eventual 20-7 surge that sent the Americans into the locker room with a 39-34 advantage. The Gamecocks’ rising sophomore added five points to the final 9-0 run over the last 2:28 of the period.
The Americans stretched their lead to seven at 43-36 on a pair of free throws from Wilson with 8:32 left in the third quarter, but the host team would not relent. An 8-3 run narrowed the lead back to a single possession, and the Russians had a chance to tie after another U.S. turnover. The Americans picked up a steal on the other end to stave off the threat, and Wilson’s move on the right block made it 48-44 with 5:29 to go in the period. Wilson answered another Russian basket, but Kseniia Levchenko hit a 3 off an offensive rebound to get her team within one at 50-49 with 4:40 remaining in the quarter.
The U.S. clung to a one-point lead as Wilson subbed out for the remainder of the quarter. Both team struggled to hit shots down the stretch of the period, allowing the Americans to take a 57-53 lead into the fourth quarter.
Out of the break, Mariya Moore hit a 3 to re-establish a seven-point lead, but the Russians capitalized on a U.S. turnover to gain ground to 57-60. Wilson buried the first of two free throws, then turned Moore’s offensive rebound of her missed second into a baseline drive that made it 63-57 with 7:15 to play.
Russia was still not done, dialing it in from 3-point range to keep the Americans within striking distance. The U.S. repeatedly went to Wilson either in the high post or inside, and the Gamecock forward delivered, turning a 65-63 lead into a 68-63 advantage with a scoop shot and a free throw with just over five minutes to play. Raisa Musina finished off great ball movement with a short baseline jumper to get the Russians within three at 68-65.
From there, the inside game of the Americans wore down Russia. Chatrice White hit from inside, and a defensive rebound led to a Wilson transition bucket. The United States tightened up on defense and closed out a 10-0 run with a Crystal Dangerfield layup that made it a 75-65 lead, from which the Russians could not recover.
Wilson added eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and a blocked shot to the box score Sunday.
Staley improved to 21-0 as a USA Basketball head coach, collecting her third gold medal in international competition in that role.