October 14, 2022 

The Morning Post-Up, Vol. 4 — France wins gold at U23 3×3 World Cup

Plus: Updates from the EuroLeague and EuroCup qualifiers

Happy Friday! Welcome to The Morning Post-Up, a twice-weekly newsletter from The Next. Today’s edition is all-in on the U23 3×3 World Cup, which wrapped up last Sunday in Bucharest, Romania with a victory for France. (Note: This edition includes video clips, which unfortunately are not playable on email. You can view them at thenexthoops.com, however.)

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The U23 FIBA 3×3 World Cup, which is the premiere 3×3 event for the U23 age group, wrapped up last Sunday. France ultimately took home the gold medal, beating the USA in the Final, 21–18. In the all-time 3×3 series between the two teams, France has extended to a 6–0 lead. Anna Ngo Ndjock was named the MVP of the tournament, after leading France with 14 points in the final. She was joined by the USA’s Lexie Hull and the Netherlands’ Julia Jorritsma on the Team of the Tournament.

There is plenty to learn about Team USA’s approach to 3×3 from this event, many of which have to do with who they choose to bring to 3×3 national team events. This time, it was Hull, Emily Engstler, Veronica Burton and N’dea Jones; Engstler and Jones were the only two players with international 3×3 experience, though Jones had last played on the world stage in 2021. While other countries had brought teams who’d spent the majority of the year playing through the 3×3 circuit, this USA team was majority fresh faces, most of which were coming off of the WNBA season.

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In Pool C, however, it was enough to get them through to the knockout round. Team USA breezed through their first two matches against the Dominican Republic and Uzbekistan, winning both matches by a margin of at least 17 points. Hull’s scoring output (13 and nine points respectively) was difficult for opponents to deal with, her speed and quick decision making off the dribble making her a very tough match up. Not to mention, because this was Hull’s first international 3×3 event, there wasn’t much material for teams to scout her on.

By day two of competition, however, the difficulty ramped up. In their match against Japan, the USA got a first taste of how tough teams around the world are becoming. They trailed early; miscommunications, blown layups and missed rotations on the defensive end allowed Japan to forge ahead. Even as a perfect set of free throws from Hull helped pull the USA back in front, those same errors cropped up again and again.

USA vs Japan. Team USA gets totally out-hustled here. Norika Konno (6) catches Hull off the dribble and then fakes her out completely for an easy short jumper. Source: FIBA 3×3 YouTube

Luckily for the USA, Hull’s ability to draw fouls and get to the line, combined with her rebounding ability, notched them the win. No other USA player scored over three points, even as Jones went down with what ended up being a minor calf injury in the final three minutes. In this set of plays, Hull uses her wingspan to tip the rebound from the hands of Yua Emura on what should’ve been an easy layup for Engstler. Then, she positions her body to block of Emura again, before using her pivot foot to sling a layup over her shoulder.

Source: FIBA 3×3 YouTube

Ultimately the USA would prevail with a final score of 20–14, largely on Hull’s free throw shooting. When the USA took on Mongolia, Engstler’s size and experience in the post came in handy. Her shot making from the perimeter briefly appeared to rebound as she sank three shots from 2-point range. The 21–12 win was the third-fastest game of the tournament.

Having closed out the Pool round, Team USA were on their way to the knockout round. They breezed through the quarter-final against Ukraine, Hull once again leading with nine points in the 21–10 victory. The semi-final against China saw Burton and Hull working in tandem as they scored 13 of the USA’s 15 points, all of Burton’s coming from 2-point range. The game was highly physical, a style of play the USA hadn’t struggled against to this point. It would become very important experience ahead of the Final against France, however.

Over in Pool A, France was making the rounds and dominating every team they faced, winning three of their four preliminary matches by 12 or more. Their strongest challenge came against Romania, who took an early lead in the match and saw consistent scoring from Teodora Manea, who shoots the free throw in the clip below. France was often able to get a balanced scoring output from its players, but that was more valuable here, as the Romanian defense struggled to handle all four French players. The game also showcased a play utilizing Sixtine Macquet as a roller toward the basket which would be key in the Final against the USA.

France vs Romania. Classic French action, finding Macquet rolling backdoor for an easy bucket. Source: FIBA 3×3 YouTube

France had a much tougher road to the Final. They faced Japan first, but their experience in the knockout rounds on the international stage, as well as evenly distributed scoring helped them come away with a 21–13 win. Then, France would take on the Netherlands, who would go on to win the bronze medal match against China. The Netherlands’ defense, along with Jorritsma’s eight points, made France work harder for the win than they had through the whole tournament — it the first win France had to play through the whole 10 minutes for.

By the time they got to the Final, the French team was well-tested through other international events (Camille Droguet and Ngo Ndjock had won the Nations League tournament together) and through a tough knock-out series to that point; it seemed as if no one, not even the USA on their best day, could stop them.

France opened the Final match on a 4–2 lead, and the USA would play catch-up the whole way through. Even as Hull’s free throws and Burton’s perimeter shooting kept Team USA in it, Team France had a clear identity: they move the ball, use their open cutters, and most importantly, give Njdock the lane when she’s heating up early. On this play, Hull makes quick work of Droguet, but when Engstler drops to cover Njdock driving towards the basket, the double-team leaves Droguet wide open under the basket to receive the pass, even though she misses the layup.

USA vs France, final. Hull uses her post-up skills, but doesn’t recover on Droguet who gets a wide-open shot at the basket. Source: FIBA 3×3 YouTube

Ndjock leaves Team USA in the dust on back to back plays here, taking advantage of Engstler’s delay between scoring and getting set on defense, a set that was indicative of the broader defensive problems Team USA had. They struggled to move from offense to defense as quickly as Team France, which left them vulnerable to Ndjock in particular, whose speed and power to the basket was already formidable. Whether it was untimely double-teams, or simply getting beat off the dribble, Team USA’s lack of experience as a group set them behind France here.

USA vs France, Final. Ndjock fakes out Jones, but Engstler uses the miss-match on Franchelin for the easy bucket. Unfortunately for Engstler, she gets completely left in the dust by Ndjock as she barrels to the basket for the layup. Source: FIBA 3×3 YouTube

Despite it all, the Final remained highly competitive. Team USA had a much more balanced scoresheet than had been typical for them, as Burton lead the way with six points. Even so, France held onto the lead they took at 12 points and closed out the gold medal on a gorgeous screening action for Ndjock, straight into a banked layup over Jones.

Hull finds Burton for the long two-pointer, but Ndjock nullifies it with the game-winner over Jones. Watch for the screen Macquet sets on Hull to open the floor for Ndjock. Source: FIBA 3×3 YouTube

For France, which has been synonymous with women’s 3×3 for the better part of a year, the U23 World Cup was the final honor they needed to seal a highly successful season. From gold medals at the EuroCup, World Cup and the Nations League, plus a silver medal at the Women’s Series, it’s been quite the year for France at all levels. For the USA, however, not all hope is lost. Team USA has been quite successful at the U18 level in 3×3, and the Redbull 3x series stateside is starting to bring up players organically in 3×3 basketball. With a new season of 3×3 on the way, beginning for the USA with the AmeriCup in Miami on Nov. 3, perhaps better days are on the way

On the block

Next-up tournaments to keep your eye on

  • FIBA SuperCup, Oct. 18, 2:00 p.m. ET. More details here.
  • EuroLeague Qualifiers, Oct. 19, 2:15 p.m. ET. Spar Girona will face ESBVA in the final qualifying match for the EuroLeague regular season. On Wednesday, ESBVA took the first match in the series, 69–57, led by Kennedy Burke’s 17 points. The game will be available to stream for free on YouTube YouTube.com/EuroLeagueWomen.

Dish and swish

Recent results to know

EuroLeague Women Qualifiers — All but one group has been decided. DVTK Hun-Therm prevailed over Elizur Ramla (RML), 80–54, and then defeated Botas SK, 75–54, to clinch a spot in Group B. This marks their first entrance into the EuroLeague in the club’s history. Darcee Garbin and Cheridene Green were instrumental in the wins as they posted 14-plus points each in both matches. Arella Guirantes had a near-triple-double with 13 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in the win over Elizur. Elizur closed out the series with a win over Botas, 72–64, to take a spot in Group B of the EuroCup, while Botas lands in Group F. Shakira Austin posted 12 points, eight rebounds and two steals in the win.

Olympiacos SFP grabbed a 73–54 win over ACS Sepsi-Sic as Megan Gustafson notched a massive double-double of 31 points and 13 rebounds. Olympiacos then prevailed over KKZ Crvena Zvezda, 84–60, to secure their spot in the EuroLeague regular season. Here, Gustafson posted a much tamer 25 points and five rebounds. Olympiacos will return to the EuroLeague for the first time since 2018, and will be in Group A. ACS then defeated KKZ, 83–63, and placed into Group E of EuroCup, while KKZ will round out EuroCup Group A.

In the final series of EuroLeague qualifiers, we await the winner of the play-off between Girona and ESVBA, who took the first match. Should ESVBA win, they will take the final spot in Group B, while a win from Girona would send the series to tie-breakers. The first tie-breaker is point differential in EuroLeague qualifying games, so Girona would need to win by more than 12 to punch their ticket to the EuroLeague qualifier.

Next, read…

Written by Isabel Rodrigues

Isabel Rodrigues (she/her) is a contributing editor for The Next from upstate New York. She occasionally covers 3x3 and labor in women's basketball.

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