Linnae Harper and Team USA confronted their first significant test at the U19 World Basketball Championships on Wednesday and came away unscathed.
Harper, a University of Kentucky signee, had five points, seven rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot as the United State turned back France 69-63 in a second-round battle of unbeaten teams.
“It’s definitely something that we needed,” Harper said. “Our previous games weren’t so close, but this game really showed us that we need to come together focused, be coachable, listen to the coaches and take criticism, because the next three games are going to be very critical.”
The United States (6-0) won its previous five games in the tournament in Lithuania by an average of 56.8 points.
France (5-1) hung with the U.S. throughout, closing within 65-63 with 1:03 remaining. Alexis Jones' three-point basket as the shot clock was expiring in the closing seconds gave the U.S. a safe cushion at 68-63. The basket was Jones' first-three-pointer of the game after four misses.
The entire U.S. team had a rough day shooting. Harper's 2-for-10 performance was part of a 27-for-68 (39.7 percent) team effort.
The U.S. opens quarterfinal play Friday at 1:15 p.m. EDT against Japan (3-3). The other quarterfinal games are: Spain (6-0) vs. Canada (3-3), Brazil (4-2) vs. France, and Australia (5-1) vs. China (4-2).