USA’s Win Secures Top Seed at World University Games

by August 18, 2011

Courtesy of our friends at USA Basketball:

After a first-quarter fight from Finland (2-2), the 2011 USA Men’s World University Games Team (4-0) went on to easily secure a 124-64 win and the No. 1 seed out of Group D in the 2011 World University Games on Aug. 17 at the Universiade Main Gym in Shenzhen, China.

Led by 21 points from JaMychal Green (Alabama/Montgomery, Ala.), who grabbed five offensive boards and shot 6-of-7 from the field and 8-of-10 from the free throw line, the USA collected 22 offensive rebounds overall on its way to a 47-27 advantage on the glass.

“We came out with a lot of energy,” said USA and Purdue University head mentor Matt Painter. “We mixed up the line up a little bit tonight and swapped our point guards, Scoop (Jardine) and Ashton (Gibbs), just to get a different look and see how our guys would respond to it, and both groups played well. I thought our guys had a great effort on the glass, especially on free throws. Even though you don’t want to miss your free throws, we did a great job of attacking the glass and getting second-chance opportunities.”

The USA, which has cruised uncontested through its first four games, will wrap up preliminary round pool play against Israel at 3:30 p.m. (all times listed are China Standard Time, which is +12 hours from Eastern Time) on Aug. 18. The top two finishing teams from each pool will advance to the medal quarterfinals, which will be contested on Aug. 20. The semifinals are scheduled for Aug. 21, and the finals will be played on Aug. 22.

Trevor Mbakwe (Minnesota/ St. Paul, Minn.) added fourteen points and six rebounds, Ashton Gibbs (Pittsburgh/Scotch Plains, N.J.) finished with 13 points and three assists, John Jenkins (Vanderbilt/ Hendersonville, Tenn.) was 3-of-4 from 3-point and tallied 12 points and Marcus Denmon (Missouri/Kansas City, Mo.), who was perfect from the field (3-3 FGs) and the charity stripe (3-3 FTs), rounded out the USA’s double-digit scorers with 10 points. As they have in all of the USA’s four contests, all 12 U.S. players put points on the board.

“I think we played well today,” JaMychal Green said. “We did a good job on the defensive end and a great job on the offensive end. We played better help defense and took pride in guarding our own players. Coach (Painter) always preaches that we need to crash the boards, and we did that today.”

Finland came out fighting and managed to take the lead from the USA three times in the first four minutes. A three-point play from Denmon at 5:54, however, tied the score 11-11 and was the start of a 9-0 spurt that put the USA ahead for the remainder of the game. Finland cut it to two points at 2:26, 18-16, but that was as close as they would get. Five points from Orlando Johnson (UC Santa Barbara/Seaside, Calif.) were followed by scores from Ray McCallum (Detroit Mercy/Beverly Hills, Mich.) and Jenkins, and by the time McCallum just beat the first quarter buzzer with a 3-pointer, the red, white and blue led by 12 points, 31-19.

“Before the game in film today, coach Stevens really stressed coming out strong from the get-go, being focused and playing hard,” McCallum said. “I thought that was what we did, and our walk-through this morning carried over to the game today. Everyone came out focused, played well together as a team and played good defense, and we got the job done.”

The scoreboard read 33-23 in the second quarter before back-to-back 3-pointers from Demon and Draymond Green (Michigan State/Saginaw, Mich.) launched a 12-0 spurt that closed with two made free throws from Denmon at 6:04 to widen the margin to 45-23. Finland never quit fighting and called both of its timeouts hoping to cool the Americans, but the tactic did not work. The USA compiled another 5-0 run and outscored its opponent 32-19 overall in the period to head to the halftime locker room up 63-38.

“Coming into the game, we expected Finland to be the best team that we had played so far, and they played us tough, especially to start,” Denmon said. “We did a lot of things well and improved on things that we didn’t do well in our last game. We paid attention to detail and took what we learned in film this morning and applied it to the game, and that paid off with a big win.”

With the game’s outcome already decided the USA was on fire in the third quarter, scoring 37 points, while its defense allowed Finland just 13. The USA largest string of unanswered points, 14-0, came in the period, opening with a 3-pointer from Darius Miller (Kentucky/Maysville, Ky.) at 3:10 and continuing through to a made free throw from Mbakwe at 1:17. The Americans reached 100 points off of an Mbakwe score at 40 seconds, and had a 100-51 lead headed into the fourth quarter.

The USA, which shot 57.3 percent (43-75 FGs) from the field and 40.9 percent from 3-point (9-22 3-pt FGs), went on to outscore Finland 24-13 in the final 10 minutes to capture a 124-64 win.

“We wanted to finish out the game, especially the fourth quarter, with a big lead and to put four solid quarters together,” said Greg Mangano (Yale/Orange, Conn.), who finished with seven points, two steals and two blocks. “I think we did that. Being able to play 12 guys and using different line-ups helps us work on our chemistry. When we get into a close game, everyone will have had the chance to play some solid minutes with each other.”

Cuonzo Martin of the University of Tennessee and Brad Stevens of Butler University are serving as assistant coaches for the 2011 USA Men’s World University Games Team.

In today’s other Pool D games, Israel (2-2) edged out South Korea (1-3) 87-82, and Mexico (3-1) topped Hungary (0-4) 86-74. Should the USA lose to Israel on Aug. 18 and Mexico improve to 4-1, the USA would still be the No. 1 seed having beat Mexico 108-67 on Aug. 13.

The World University Games is a multi-sport competition open to men and women who are between the ages of 17 and 24, who currently or have been within the past year, a student at a college or university.

The United States, which has claimed a medal in every World University Games since beginning play in 1965, has captured a record 13 golds, three silvers and three bronze medals in the 19 WUGs in which a USA Basketball squad has competed, and the U.S. owns a 131-8 record in the event.