University of Kentucky forward Rhyne Howard came up clutch in the semifinals of the FIBA U19 Women’s World Cup on Saturday, scoring a game-high 14 points and hitting the go-ahead shot as Team USA knocked off Belgium, 67-59, in Bangkok, Thailand.
Belgium had a one-point lead with less than three minutes left in the game when Howard hit her second three-pointer to put the U.S. ahead for good, 61-59. Howard, Team USA’s leading scorer in the tournament, hit five of 12 shots from the field including two of three from three-point range. She also had five rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal in 30 minutes of playing time.
Team USA (6-0), coached by University of Louisville head coach Jeff Walz, now moves on to face Australia (5-1) in Sunday’s finals. Australia topped Spain, 64-55, in Saturday’s other semifinal. The U.S. beat Australia, 79-56, in the opening game of the tournament. Howard scored 10 points in that matchup. Howard, who was named Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year last season, is averaging a team-high 13.7 points per game in the tournament.
The U.S. is in the finals for the eighth straight time. In 2017 they fell to Russia, 86-82, in the title game, ending a streak of six consecutive championships. Australia last made the finals in 1997. Since 2005 the tournament has been played every two years. It was held every four years prior to that, beginning in 1985.