USA rolls past Lithuania to reach men's U-19 championship game
PRAGUE, Czech Republic (USA Basketball) -- With a recipe for success at the FIBA U-19 World Championship that was
carefully crafted when the team's training started three weeks ago,
there was no deviating from it Saturday night in the USA's semifinal
game versus U-19 defending champion Lithuania. Utilizing a disruptive
and effective full court defensive press, depth, balanced scoring and a
transition offense that is downright frightful, the USA improved to 8-0
and earned a spot in Sunday's gold medal game after eliminating
Lithuania 100-60 at the O2 Arena in Prague.
The U.S. will face Serbia in the gold medal contest (2:15 p.m. EDT).
Serbia, 7-1, suffered its lone loss to the USA, a 71-62 defeat
on July 3. FIBA TV and ESPN3 are streaming all of the finals games live.
"I thought it (the USA's focus and intensity) was really good," said USA and University of Florida head coach Billy Donovan.
"This was a game where our guys came out and really from start to
finish played really, really good basketball and I was proud of them
"We gave ourselves an opportunity to play for the gold medal, that
was the goal and now we'll have a great challenge against a Serbia team
that obviously we played in an incredibly hard-played game a couple of
As has been the case in each of the team's seven previous wins, the American offensive effort was a team one. Marcus Smart
(Oklahoma State University/Flower Mound, Texas) officially was high
scorer for the game with 18 points that came on 6-of-8 shooting,
including 2-of-4 from three-point range. Joining him in double figures were Justise Winslow (St. Johns H.S./Houston, Texas) with 15 points and nine rebounds; Aaron Gordon (Archbishop Mitty H.S./San Jose, Calif.) with 14 points, four rebounds, two assists, two blocked shots and two steals; Nigel Williams-Goss (Findlay Prep/Happy Valley, Ore.) with 11 points and a game-best five assists; and Montrezl Harrell (University of Louisville/ Tarboro, N.C.) with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
"These guys have bought into understanding that they're all really
good players and there's going to be a level of sacrifice and
unselfishness that's going to have to go in and on any given night it
could be anybody. Michael Frazier hasn't particularly shot the ball well
but you know the last two nights he's made some 3-point shots that
really helped our team. Oak (Jahlil Okafor) the other day against
Canada was a force up front for us and made some incredible plays but
today they double-teamed him. So it's been different guys. I think we
have to have an open mind offensively to take whatever the defense gives
us and understand that on any given night it could be anyone scoring,"
Jarnell Stokes (University of Tennessee/Memphis,
Tenn.) scored five points to help push the U.S. out to a strong start as
the U.S. led 7-2. Lithuania made the first of the three 3-pointers it
would score in the game to close the gap to 7-5, and the U.S., behind
its havoc-wreaking press and five points from Winslow, ripped off
10-straight points in less than two minutes to take charge 17-5.
Carrying a 25-16 lead into the second quarter, the U.S. was up 31-22
when it finished off the second period with another impressive run, this
time a 16-4 barrage that left the American squad in full control at
halftime, 47-26. Michael Frazier (University of
Florida/Tampa, Fla.), who made 4-of-9 3-point shots versus Canada
Friday, continued to connect from beyond the 3-point arc and swished a
pair during the run.
"The first group came out intense and when the second group came in,
their starters were kind of tired and our depth just really kicked in,"
remarked the 17-year-old Winslow. "It just seems like guys can come in
and benefit our team. So that's something that going to help us win the
gold medal because we have 12 high-level guys and most teams don't have
A 7-2 start of the third quarter built the U.S. advantage to 26
points, 54-26, and from there the U.S. ran away to a 72-44 lead after
three quarters and to the eventual 100-60 victory.
The U.S. shot well, hitting on 59.5 percent of its shots, while
sinking 6-of-12 from 3-point. Collecting a 42-26 rebounding advantage,
the U.S. forced 19 turnovers and scored 24 points off those miscues.
Lithuania shot just 36.2 percent for the game, and was only 3-of-18 from three-point range.
"(Defending) the three-point line was critical and the three-point line is
going to be critical again tomorrow. The reason that we've been able to
make it to the gold medal game is that we've been able to hold teams
down three-point shooting wise up to this point in time. We haven't had one
of those games where someone's made 15 or 16 three-point shots. We've done a
pretty good job of understanding the importance of guarding that and
we're going to need to that tomorrow," said Donovan.
"These teams over here you've got to take away the three-point line,
especially Lithuania," added USA captain Marcus Smart. "They were down a
couple games ago about 20 in the fourth quarter and came back. They
have exploited teams at the three-point line and they have some very good
players who are crafty and skillful and understand the game, and they
have some really good plays they run for those players to get them open
and the shots they want."
With six different countries claiming gold at the last six U-19 World
Championships, either Serbia or the USA is about to capture a second and
end that streak.
What the victory will require wasn't lost on U.S. guard
Williams-Goss, who said, "It will take everything. It will take a level
of togetherness; it's going to take commitment and effort to do all the
little things, and really it's going to take a high level of focus. We
know Serbia is a really good team and they're not going to beat
themselves so we can't go out there and make a lot of mental mistakes
and beat ourselves."
In Saturday's classification round action at the U-19 Worlds, Spain
bettered Croatia 75-64, while Canada defeated China 110-100 in a
triple-overtime thriller. Russia downed Brazil 60-53 to capture 9th
place and Iran beat Argentina 79-68 to claim 11th place.
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 77-13 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.