Jonquel “JJ” Jones had arguably her most impactful game of the 2021 European Women Basketball Championship (EuroBasket Women 2021) thus far, leading the Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) women’s national team past Croatia and into the quarterfinals of the prestigious event – a qualifier for the 2022 FIBA (International Basketball Federation) Women’s Basketball World Cup. The top six nations advance to qualifying tournaments.
Against Croatia, Jones erupted for 24 points and pulled down 17 rebounds – both game highs – helping BiH record an 80-69 victory at the Rhénus Sport in Strasbourg, France, on Monday. She added five assists, three blocks and a steal. Jones was dominant in and around the basket on Monday, scoring in the paint, from the mid-range, and also from deep. She shot 8-for-19 from the field and was 2-for-4 from deep.
Jones, 27, is the tournament’s leading scorer and rebounder at 20.8 points and 14.5 rebounds per game through four games. In group stage play, she helped BiH record upsets over Belgium and Turkey, ranked sixth and seventh in the world according to the latest FIBA World Rankings, presented by Nike.
Croatia is at number 31 and BiH is ranked at number 34. They will have their toughest task to date, taking on a France team that is ranked at number five in the world, in the quarterfinals, on Wednesday. If successful, Jones and BiH will secure a spot in the semis on the weekend and assure themselves of a spot among the top six for World Cup qualification. The semifinals and final will be held June 26 and 27 at the Pavelló Municipal Font de Sant Lluís in Valencia, Spain.
Against Croatia, Jones and BiH led 19-18 after the first quarter, trailed 36-33 at the half, but jumped back in front, 52-50, at the end of three.
Croatia stayed within striking distance until the midway point of the fourth when BiH started to pull away. Jones buried a three-point shot at the 4:49 mark to give BiH a 63-56 lead, and Croatia got no closer than five points the rest of the way. A three-point shot from Ana-Marija Begic pulled Croatia to within six points, 70-64, with 2:13 remaining, but Miljana Dzombeta and Nikolina Babic hit back-to-back three-point shots for BiH to put the game out of reach.
Jones scored the final four points of the game, a layup and two free shots, to ice the game for BiH.
Jones has recorded a double-double in each game she has played in, in Europe in this tournament. She is
second in player efficiency, 27.8 to Emma Meesseman’s 30.7 for Belgium, second in blocks at 1.8 per game to Anastasiya Verameyenka’s 2.3 for Belarus. Jones is shooting 45.3 percent from the field and 32 percent from three-point range in the tournament.
Led by Jones, BiH outscored Croatia in the paint, 26-16, and almost doubled them in steals, 7-4.
In the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) in the United States, Jones’ team, the Connecticut Sun, has been struggling without her. It’s showing just how valuable she is to both squads, and that her time away from the Sun may actually help her Most Valuable Player (MVP) candidacy this season.
Jones is averaging 21.6 points and 10.4 rebounds per game for the Sun through 10 games this season. She is second in the league in scoring and leads the way in rebounding for the third time in five years, while shooting 56.8 percent from the floor and 48.9 percent from three-point range – both career highs and top five in the league in both.
The Sun dropped three straight without Jones, falling to the defending champions Seattle Storm, at home, inside the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, and losing to the Chicago Sky twice in Chicago, Illinois. They host the Dallas Wings tonight, again without Jones.
Jones’ availability for the Sun following tonight’s game will be determined by how far BiH advances in the EuroBasket Women 2021.
The Sun trail the Storm (12-2) and the 2020 WNBA runner-up Las Vegas Aces (10-3) in the WNBA Standings. They have an 8-5 win/loss record.