PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC -- Putting on a display of defensive tenacity that those in attendance will not likely forget, the USA U19 squad never stopped coming in waves at the Russians (1-2) Saturday night as the U.S. quickly forced Russia into submission and posted a dominating 115-47 victory to cap FIBA U19 World Championship first-round play in Prague, Czech Republic.
The win improved the U.S. record to 3-0 and earned it Group D’s No. 1 seed for the second round. Following a day off Sunday, the U.S. will return to the court to face Brazil (12 p.m. EDT) in the first of three second-round games. On July 2 the Americans will go against Australia (2:15 p.m. EDT), then on July 3 they will face 2011 U19 World Championship silver medalist and Group C No. 1 seed Serbia (2:15 p.m. EDT).
All 12 USA players scored and seven reached double digits in what was another show of depth by the U.S.
“They obviously had a hard time with the press, and I thought our athleticism inside, the pace of the game and us turning them over really caused them some problems. I thought we did a pretty good job of defending the 3-point line,” stated USA and University of Florida head coach Billy Donovan.
In the USA’s first three games of the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship, the squad has averaged its wins by 61.0 points a game, while limiting its opponents to just 44.3 points game, 30.9 percent shooting from the field and the red, white and blue is pressuring its opposition into 26.7 turnovers a game.
Rising high school senior Jahlil Okafor (Whitney Young H.S./Chicago, Ill.) headed the USA offensive charge with 15 points and added seven rebounds, Montrezl Harrell (University of Louisville/Tarboro, N.C.) chipped in 13 points on flawless 6-for-6 shooting from the floor; Michael Frazier (University of Florida/Tampa, Fla.) and Aaron Gordon (Archbishop Mitty H.S./San Jose, Calif.) scored 12 points each, whileMike Tobey (University of Virginia/Monroe, N.Y.) was credited with 12 points and game high nine rebounds. Rounding out the USA’s double-figre scorers were Rasheed Sulaimon (Duke University/Houston, Texas), 11 points, and Justise Winslow (St. Johns H.S./Houston, Texas) scored 10 points and cleared eight rebounds.
“Coach told us before the game to impose our will and be extremely physical,” said the 17-year-old Okafor. “They told me this team was extremely physical so I wanted to match that and over match that, and I just tried to get offensive rebounds and get easy baskets that way.”
The USA’s high intensity press paid dividends right from the start as the U.S. forced two turnovers and took a 6-0 lead before the game was a minute old.
Russia called a timeout to regroup and behind two 3-pointers from Mikhail Kulagin, took the lead 8-6.
Jarnell Stokes (University of Tennessee/Memphis, Tenn.) tied the game with a power move inside that launched the U.S. on a game-clinching 16-1 run that saw the Americans grab control 22-9 with 3:03 to play in the quarter.
“They kept trying to break it (the press) with their one guard and we knew throughout a 40-minute game he would get tired and we just instilled our will on him and made him feel it. We understood what we had to do to turn Russia over and get them to play our style of play,” added Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State University/ Flower Mound, Texas).
Taking a 30-13 lead into the second quarter, the USA’s defensive pressure continued to disrupt the Russians and by halftime things were well in hand and the U.S. led comfortably, 57-30.
The U.S. scored the first six points of the third quarter, led 87-41 when the third quarter came to close and sailed on to the impressive 115-47 victory.
For the contest, the U.S. shot 56.8 percent; outrebounded the Russians 62 to 35; and had 18 assists on its 46 made baskets. The U.S. defense did a job on Russia. Russia was limited to just 33.3 percent shooting overall, only 21.7 percent from 3-point (5-23 3pt FGs), and was forced into 27 turnovers.
Assisting Donovan with the 2013 USA U19 World Championship Team is experienced and successful college coaches Tony Bennett (University of Virginia) and Shaka Smart (Virginia Commonwealth University) as assistant coaches.
Sixteen countries are competing in the FIBA U19 World Championship. The top three finishing teams from each first-round group advance to the second round that will be played July 1-3, and the 12 teams will be divided into Groups E and F. Each team will play the three new teams in its new group, with preliminary-round results carrying over to the second-round standings. Teams finishing in first through fourth places in the second round will qualify for the quarterfinals, with the opportunity to advance to the semifinals and finals. The quarterfinals will be held on July 5, semifinals are slated for July 6 and the gold medal game will be contested on July 7. Game times will be announced by FIBA at a later date.