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How Arizona freshmen Helena Pueyo and Mara Mote fared in opening weekend of FIBA U19 Women’s World Cup

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The Arizona Wildcats won’t see their entire freshman class together until August, but that doesn’t mean the players aren’t taking part in meaningful basketball this summer. Incoming freshmen Helena Pueyo (Spain) and Mara Mote (Latvia) are playing for their national teams in the FIBA U19 Women’s World Cup this week.

Both Pueyo and Mote played in two games over the weekend. The No. 24 Latvian team faced a bit more competition than the second-ranked team from Spain, but both got through their first two games of group play unbeaten.

Helena Pueyo and Spain

Spain opened up the tournament against Colombia. The Colombian team ranks No. 57 in the FIBA World Rankings for girls, making them highly overmatched by a Spanish side that currently ranks behind only the U.S. in girls’ basketball.

Pueyo didn’t play as much as usual in what was a mismatch from tipoff. Spain’s swarming defense had the opponent flustered. Even on the rare occasion that they got an open layup, Colombia was unable to connect.

Colombia went scoreless until 1:43 in the first quarter and ended the quarter trailing 20-5. The game ended in a 75-38 victory for Spain.

With the opponent so overmatched, Pueyo played just 18 minutes in the opening game. She scored 9 points on 57.1 percent shooting to go along with 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal.

In the FIBA U18 Women’s European Championship last week, Pueyo struggled a bit with turnovers. She ended that tournament averaging 2 turnovers per game and gave the ball away 4 times in two of the seven contests. Against Colombia, she didn’t have a single turnover. She would maintain that in her next game, when she turned the ball over only once against Japan.

Pueyo showed her offensive prowess in the game against Japan by leading all scorers with 21 points in 32 minutes. She shot over 50 percent for the second straight game, hitting 53.3 percent of her shots. She added 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and a game-high 2 blocks. After two games, she has the third-highest efficiency rating (19.5) in the tournament.

The eleventh-ranked Japanese team gave Spain a bit more of a contest, outscoring the higher-ranked team in two of the four quarters. Japan was doomed by the third quarter when they were outscored 24-9. Spain proved to be too much once again in a 79-65 victory.

Mara Mote and Latvia

Latvia came into their opening game as the underdog. The fourth-ranked Canadian team features nine players who either played for or are headed to NCAA programs, including players from Arizona State and Utah and a UCLA commit. Latvia is ranked No. 24 and has only three players linked to NCAA programs. Of those three, Mote is the only one headed to a Power 5 program.

It didn’t look promising at the beginning. The game was sloppy on both ends. Latvia didn’t score until 6:30 in the first quarter, and that put the score at 4-2 in Canada’s favor. The Latvian side remained steady, outscoring Canada in three quarters and tying in the other one.

Mote was crucial in the Latvians’ 65-54 upset over Canada. She tied teammate Elizabete Anna Zumenta with a team-high 13 points and led the game with 4 steals. She added 4 assists and 5 rebounds in the winning effort.

All was not rosy for Mote, though. She shot just 27.3 percent from the floor (although that included a 2-4 night from beyond the arc) and turned the ball over three times. Those issues would persist in the team’s second game.

Latvia built a 10-point lead in the second quarter against Thailand, but the host team wouldn’t go away. They came back to tie it at the half, then took a 5-point lead in the third quarter. Latvia would climb back for the 74-57 victory, but the game was more stressful than they likely anticipated.

Mote’s struggles were a microcosm of her team’s inconsistency on the day. She scored 8 points in just over 19 minutes of playing time and shot just 25 percent from the field. Her shooting woes also showed up at the free throw line where she connected on just 40 percent of her foul shots. She added 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 2 blocks to go along with 2 turnovers.

What’s next?

Spain next faces the No. 28 German team that lost to Colombia on Sunday. That game tips off at 4:45 a.m. MST on Tuesday. With their toughest opponent out of the way, Spain faces a good chance of moving to 3-0 in their group. That could mean fewer minutes for Pueyo in the contest.

Mote has the opportunity to get back on track when Latvia faces No. 38 Mozambique at 12:15 a.m. MST on Tuesday. It will be available at the link below.