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Irving & Hairston Win Gold With USA U18 Team
Friday 07/01/2010  -  USA Basketball
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Courtesy: Ross Davis
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SAN ANTONIO, Texas – In a game that went down to the wire, the USA Basketball Men's U18 National Team (5-0) fought back to defeat Brazil (4-1) 81-78 and claim the FIBA Americas U18 Championship gold medal on Wednesday night at Bill Greehey Arena in San Antonio, Texas. Duke commit Kyrie Irving paced the U.S. team with 21 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

Argentina, Brazil, Canada and the United States qualified for the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship, which will be held in Latvia.

Tonight marked the fifth (1990, 1994, 1998, 2006, 2010) U18 gold medal for the USA, the last coming in 2006. Argentina beat USA in 2008, in the tournament held in Formosa, Argentina. With the win, the U.S. upped its overall record to 38-2 at this event, and has also won five gold medals, one silver medal (2008) and one bronze medal (2002) at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship. It also marked the best finish for Brazil, which has captured three bronze medals at the U18 tournament.

"I was really proud of our guys with how we dealt with adversity," said USA and University of Oklahoma head coach Jeff Capel.  "It's the first time we have experienced it here and it knocked us back a little bit early.  I thought we did a good job of getting off to a good start in the second half.  Give them credit, that Brazil team they have been together and fought and they made plays.  At one point, we were down eight and we could have put our heads down but these guys hung together.  They showed some toughness, they showed some grit and we started to get some stops on the defensive end and some guys made some great plays offensively."

The U.S. started the game like its previous four and at the 5:15 mark, led 15-2. However, Brazil came alive and closed the quarter on a 13-7 run to close to 22-15 at the first break.

Brazil put on a full court press for most of the first half, which disrupted the USA's offense, and the South Americans led 35-34 going into intermission after outscoring USA 14-2 in the final five minutes.

The third quarter was a see-saw battle that ended with Brazil on top 63-58. Brazil then scored the first two buckets of the final stanza to take its largest lead of the night, 67-58, with 9:01 to play.

"One of the things that happened was we got off to such a big lead I think, our guys thought that this would be a little bit easier," said Capel. "Just like the last games, then Brazil threw a full court press on us, and we did not adjust to it. It knocked us back a little bit.  They played zone and it did not allow us to get into our offense.  We talked about getting back to defending and holding them to one shot and blocking out, which would allow us to get out into transition and get some easy baskets."

Irving finished 8-of-17 from the field and 5-of-5 from the free throw line in 37 minutes of action. Josh Hairston, who will also be a freshman at Duke this season, had one point, one rebound and a steal in 15 minutes of play.

“The feeling is a lot sweeter,” said Irving. “Especially coming back from an eight point deficit or however much it was. Especially with these guys, we have been together almost three weeks now. It just feels great. I cannot even put it into words.”

USA shot 44.8 percent (30-67 FGs) from the field, and Brazil hit 42.5 percent (31-73 FGs). The U.S. squad held a 37-33 edge in rebounding.


QUOTES
Jeff Capel, 2010 USA U18 National Team Head Coach

Talk about the effort of your team, in the first game they were really tested:
Yes, you know what we scrimmaged Brazil last Thursday, and after each quarter we reset the score and after the first quarter they were up almost 26-16.  We ended up winning the scrimmage by about ten or eleven points.  It’s a team we have a lot of respect for.“ I was really proud of our guys with how we dealt with adversity. It’s the first time we have experienced it here and it knocked us back a little bit early.  I thought we did a good job of getting off to a good start in the second half.  Give them credit, that Brazil team they have been together and fought and they made plays.  At one point, we were down eight and we could have put our heads down but these guys hung together. They showed some toughness, they showed some grit and we started to get some stops on the defensive end and some guys made some great plays offensively.  Quincy hit a huge shot, he has shooter’s amnesia because the time before he took the shot and it was an air-ball. He has a lot of confidence in himself and really stepped up and made a huge shot for us.

How do you feel winning the gold medal?
I’m happy for our players, they have been through a lot in the last three weeks, and I am actually glad we won it in this manner.  Don’t get me wrong, we would have loved another huge win.  It would have been a little bit easier and we could have relaxed more.  I’m glad that these guys went through this, because this was like a college game.  For the guys entering college, and for guys going into their senior years, this can be a reference point.  Here they had success with it, so I’m glad we fought through some adversity.  I’m glad we did it together, the guys stuck together and fought together. That’s how you can see how proud they are.

What did you say to them when you were down?
I just told them we were okay and there were certain things we had to do. I felt Lucas came in and changed the game.  I thought one of the things that happened was we got off to such a big lead I think, our guys thought that this would be a little bit easier.  Just like the last games, then Brazil threw a full court press on us, and we did not adjust to it. It knocked us back a little bit.  They played zone and it did not allow us to get into our offense.  We talked about getting back to defending and holding them to one shot and blocking out, which would allow us to get out into transition and get some easy baskets. 

Josh Hairston
How does it feel to have won the tournament? What are your feelings?
It’s very exciting to win a gold medal and represent our country. I’m very proud of my teammates.  They stuck through it to the end, it’s a blessing.

What was overall experience here at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship?
It was fun; San Antonio was good to us for like three weeks.  They housed us and gave us whatever we needed.  I really love San Antonio.  Hopefully, we will come back.

Walk me through the 4th quarter.
A little bit of everything, I was on the bench to root my teammates on.  They were out there on the court so I didn’t have a problem sitting on the bench.  Cheering them on, staying positive, a little nervous we went down, everything they threw went in.  I was a little scared.  They pulled it off.

Kyrie Irving
On winning the gold medal in a close game:
The feeling is a lot sweeter, especially coming back from an eight point deficit or however much it was. Especially with these guys, we have been together almost three weeks now.  It just feels great.  I cannot even put it into words. I was not really that nervous, we have been through a lot over the last three weeks. Those practices, those two-a-days were all worth it, we have a lot of great players on the team. Getting down eight or whatever it was; the crowd was getting nervous but we were not nervous. That is what wins championships.

On playing for the USA:
I had the opportunity to play for Australia or the USA and playing for the U.S. is like nothing else. Everybody is behind you.  When you play in the States, everybody comes out.  You saw the crowd out there today just to see us play. We had the crowd behind us and it is just great.  I’m just ready to get back home and see my family.

The championship game, we had a lot of games where I did not play that much and I did not need to play that much.  That is difficult for me, because I am a competitor.   I do not like to come out of the game and what Coach Capel was doing was kind of an adjustment for me.  It makes you really value those minutes that you are on the court.  Like when I got two fouls in the first quarter, and I did not get to play until the third quarter.  That was a learning experience. You cannot get mad at the coaches; it is just a learning lesson.  That was just adversity that I needed to face.
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