Release courtesy of USABasketball.com
PRAGUE, Czech Republic – Behind balanced scoring that saw all 12 U.S. players score, including seven in double-figures, it was smooth sailing for the USA U19 World Championship Team (7-0) as it posted a dominating 109-67 victory over Canada (3-4) Friday night in quarterfinals play at the O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic.
Duke rising sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon contributed three points and four assists in the win while coming off the bench for the first time in the tournament. Sulaimon hit his team-leading 13th three-pointer in the contest and has hit at least one trey in every game of the tournament.
Just four of the U19 championship’s original 16 teams now remain in the hunt for U19 gold. Saturday’s medal round semifinals play will feature the United States taking on Lithuania (6-1) at 2:15 p.m. EDT, while Serbia (6-1) will go against Australia (4-3) (12 p.m. EDT) in the other semifinal game. Winners will advance to Sunday’s gold medal game (2:15 p.m. EDT) and semifinals losers will play for the bronze medal (12 p.m. EDT). FIBA TV and ESPN3 are streaming all of the semifinals and finals games live.
“I thought our guys got off to a pretty good start offensively, I just though defensively we had some breakdowns and loose balls that allowed them to stay close,” said USA and University of Florida head coach Billy Donovan. “I really, really like the fact that things were not necessarily going well for our team and we kept battling though. I was really pleased with the way we started the second half.”
Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State University/Flower Mound, Texas) scored 14 points to lead the red, white and blue offense; Michael Frazier (University of Florida/Tampa, Fla.) accounted for 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting from 3-point; Aaron Gordon (Archbishop Mitty H.S./San Jose, Calif.) scored 12 points on flawless 6-of-6 shooting, while Jahlil Okafor (Whitney Young H.S./Chicago, Ill.) also recorded 12 points on perfect 5-of-5 shooting and added a team-high eight rebounds. Montrezl Harrell (University of Louisville/Tarboro, N.C.) scored 11 points; Elfrid Payton (University of Louisiana at Lafayette/Gretna, La.) tossed in 10 points and Mike Tobey (University of Virginia/Monroe, N.Y.) finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.
“I just went out and played,” said Marcus Smart, who shot 6-of-9 for the night and recorded his highest scoring output of the tournament to date. “(My points) just came to me in the flow of the game, I really wasn’t trying to force anything, if it was there I was taking it.”
Down 9-7, the USA manufactured one of its trademark offensive runs to grab control. Smart evened the score at 9-9 and started the U.S. on a 15-2 run that lasted just over 3:30 and saw the U.S. open a 24-14 lead. Canada closed the quarter by outscoring the U.S. 8-6, but after the first 10 minutes the U.S. was out in front 30-22.
Canada, despite making just 8-of-20 tries from the free throw line in the first two quarters, stayed within reach of the U.S. and trailed 39-32 with 4:20 remaining before half. With Tobey scoring six of the USA’s final 14 points of the first half, at halftime the USA had cushioned its lead to 53-36.
Opening the third period with a Frazier 3-pointer, the U.S. quickly put this game away thanks to 31-12 third quarter scoring spree that left the Americans up, 84-50. The USA went on to lead by has many as 43 points before settling for the 109-67 victory.
“We just kept grinding; like coach said our focus wasn’t there but I think we did a good job of grinding the game out,” said Frazier.
“It’s just a matter of me shooting with confidence and focusing on shooting one shot at a time and forgetting about the last shot, the last miss, and I think I did that tonight. My teammates did a great job of trusting me to make shots and that always feels good,” added Frazier about his four made 3-pointers.
On a night when it shot 52.5 percent from the field and made 7-of-23 3-point tries, the U.S. owned the glass, outrebounding Canada 54-33 with 17 of the USA’s rebounds coming on the offensive end. Canada shot just 35.3 percent for the game and coughed the ball up 19 times.
“Lithuania is a really, really good 3-point shooting team and they run some very, very difficult actions to guard,” stated Donovan abut the USA’s semifinal opponent. “The thing that is going to be challenging to our front court is there is going to be some times they’re going to have four to five 3-point shooters on the floor and that’s hard. We’ve got do a really, really good job transitioning from offense to defense and take away the 3-point line.”
Other quarterfinals medal round play saw Lithuania (6-1) best China (3-4) 89-58; Group F No. 4 seed Australia (4-3) shocked Group E No. 1 seed Spain (6-2) 87-76; Serbia (6-1) rebounded from Wednesday’s loss to the U.S. and handed rival Croatia (5-2) a 73-66 defeat. In consolation play, Brazil (3-4) slipped past Iran (1-6) 63-53 and Russia (3-4) nipped Argentina (2-5) 63-59.
Assisting Donovan with the 2013 USA U19 World Championship Team are Tony Bennett (University of Virginia) and Shaka Smart (Virginia Commonwealth University).
Originally known as the FIBA Junior World Championship, the tournament was held every four years between 1979-2007. FIBA now conducts the U19 World Championship every two years. USA men's teams are 76-13 in the U19/Junior World Championships and have won four gold and three silver medals, most recently finishing with a 7-2 record and in fifth place in 2011 and 9-0 and with the gold medal in 2009.