SAO SEBASTIÁO DOS PARAISO, Brazil -- Incoming Duke freshman Rasheed Sulaimon scored eight points on 3-of-5 shooting to help lead the USA Men's U18 Basketball Team past Brazil 81-56 in the gold medal game of the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship on Wednesday evening.
Sulaimon averaged 10.0 points per game during Team USA's dominant five-game run through the tournament. The Americans won all five games by no less than 19 points, while Sulaimon averaged 20.0 minutes per game as a key member of the team. The 6-4 McDonald's All-American guard from Houston, Texas (Strake Jesuit College Prep), shot .541 from the floor (20-of-37) for the tournament with at least eight points in all five games.
"Oh man, I'm speechless right now," Sulaimon said after the victory. "We worked so hard for this, since June 5, and to have all these guys come together, find chemistry and really play for our country and for all our hard work to pay off and get a gold medal it's great. Like I said, I'm lost for words; I'm blessed; I'm honored; I'm proud to be an American; I'm everything - it's just a great feeling."
Playing the host Brazilians on their home court, Team USA forced 26 turnovers and posted a 44-38 rebounding margin. Leading by just six at halftime, USA stepped up its defense in the second half to break open the game and outscore Brazil 44-25 downt he stretch.
"I though in the first half they went zone and we got a little stagnant and we turned the ball over way too much. We had some opportunities on some fast breaks that we got nothing out of. The one thing we were fortunate in the first half was they were 9-for-19 from the foul line.," stated USA and University of Florida head coach Billy Donovan.
"I thought in the second half we got up and down the floor, we were pushing it more; more up tempo, we attacked the basket; we attacked the paint; and I thought our defense was really, really good in the second half. We took away 3-pointers and easy baskets, and that enabled us to get out on the fast break."
The USA’s winning of the gold medal is the nation’s sixth FIBA Americas U18 gold medal in eight championships, and the U.S.is now 43-2 all-time in the U18 zone championship.
The top finishers from the U18 championship – USA, Brazil, Canada and Argentina- each earned an invite to the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship.