University of Kentucky forward Rhyne Howard burst onto the college basketball scene last season, leading the Wildcats in scoring on her way to being named Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year. This summer, she’s made a name for herself on the international stage.
Howard scored 10 points and made a crucial play in the closing moments as Team USA defeated Australia, 74-70, in overtime in the championship game of the FIBA U19 Women’s World Cup in Bangkok, Thailand on Sunday. The U.S. has now won eight World Cup titles. It won seven straight before losing to Russia in the 2017 finals.
Coached by the University of Louisville’s Jeff Walz, Team USA went undefeated (7-0) in this year’s tournament, but was taken to the brink in its last two games.
“Everyone wants to see a game like this, back and forth,” Walz told High Post Hoops. “Both teams, I thought, played extremely well. They did a great job of breaking our press in the first half, we didn’t defend very well at all. We gave them momentum, and we had our chances. We got up four and five, then missed shots. Give them credit for coming back and getting the lead. It was just a good basketball game.”
Sunday’s championship game featured nine ties and 17 lead changes. Australia led at the half, 40-39, and had a shot to win in regulation, but Jazmin Shelley’s three-point attempt was off the mark. With just over two minutes to play in overtime, Howard grabbed her seventh rebound of the game then knocked down a step-back jumper to give the U.S. a four-point lead. She also had three assists, two steals and a block in 38 minutes of playing time. Belgium led with less than three minutes to play in the semifinals before Howard hit a three-pointer to give the U.S. the lead for good.
Howard averaged 13.1 points per game to lead Team USA in scoring and hit 44.7 percent of her three-pointers, knocking down 17 of 38 shots from long range. Colombia’s Maria Camila Alvarez was the only player to hit more three-pointers (21) than Howard.
Howard was one of five players named to the tournament All-Star Team. Paige Bueckers who will be a freshman at UConn this upcoming season, also made the All-Star Team and was named tournament MVP after scoring 17 points in the finals.