BILBAO, SPAIN --The USA (5-0) wrapped up its preliminary-round play with a 95-71 win against Ukraine (2-3) Thursday, but it was not without some early drama. After a first-quarter fight that saw Ukraine take a five-point lead at the first break, the USA battled back to secure control of the game and led 44-32 at halftime and 69-53 at the third-quarter intermission.
The USA will face Mexico (2-3), the No. 4 seed from Group D, in the round of 16 Sept. 6 (time TBD) in Barcelona, Spain.
“I thought we got off to a very slow start offensively,” said USA coach Mike Krzyzewski (Duke University). “Steph's (Curry) right, I thought our defense was good throughout until we got a pretty good lead. They were 1-for-13 from 3, we really wanted to take away their 3-point shooting and I thought we did that until later.
“Mike (Frattelo) does a great job with his team, they are very well coached, they get good shots and they played as one. They had a fabulous run in this tournament and he's to be commended for that.
“I think this team has been pretty balanced. We haven't really shot the 3 as much as our three previous teams and it just worked out that way. I think part of it is once we started hitting a couple of 3s, the inside opened and our guys were very unselfish, what did we have 25 assists and 10 turnovers? And as a result of that we got stuff in the paint. The other thing, points in the paint are also fast breaks, so you get a few steals and those are pretty high percentage points. But we had good balance. We scored 14 points in the first quarter and then ended up with 95 for the game. We started to play a lot better; we had a 30-point quarter in the second quarter after having that slow start.”
Again featuring a balanced scoring attack, six players finished in double-figures for the U.S. James Harden (Houston Rockets) scored 17 points, including 10 in the third quarter, and dished out five assists; Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors) added 14 points while shooting 3-of-4 from 3-point; Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans) finished with 12 points and six rebounds; DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings) and Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers), who also dished out six assists, scored 11 points apiece; and Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets) added 10 points and eight rebounds.
The USA was slow to start the game, and for a second straight night was plagued by poor shooting – 6-of-19 (.316) – in the first 10 minutes. While its defense did hold Ukraine to the very same shooting performance (6-19 FGs, .316), the USA sent Ukraine to the line four times, where it shot a perfect 7-of-7 to help take a 19-14 lead at the first break. Also helping Ukraine to compile its early lead was a 16-10 rebounding advantage.
The teams matched each other over the first three minutes of the second period, however, an old-fashioned three-point play from Cousins and a 3-pointer from Irving helped the USA cut it to two points, 24-22, at 7:07. After two tied scores, Curry’s 3-pointer at 3:59 gave the USA its first lead, 30-27, since it was ahead 2-0 to start the game. A 7-0 stretch from 2:23 to 1:20 in the quarter spurred the USA to a 44-32 halftime lead.
Ukraine played hard throughout the game, but never came closer than 13 points in the third quarter, as Harden scored 10 of his points in the period to help the USA lead 69-54 headed into the final 10 minutes.
The USA ran away with the game by outscoring Ukraine 26-17 in the fourth to bring the game to its 95-71 final.
The USA shooting warmed up to 50.7 percent for the game (37-73 FGs) and righted the rebounding column by grabbing 42 to Ukraine’s 34. The USA also recorded 25 assists on its 37 made baskets.
“One last thing, just from our whole contingent, we want to thank the people of Bilbao, the organizing committee, everything was perfect,” added Krzyzewski. “Our play wasn’t always perfect, but the support and how the conditions were, the hotel, everything was just unbelievable. Thank you for treating us that way.”
More information on Team USA, including box scores, recaps, quotes and photo galleries are available at www.usab.com.