June/July 2018 FIBA WORLD CUP QUALIFYING
Mexico City, Mexico and Havana, Cuba • June 28-July 1, 2018
Suffering its first setback in FIBA World Cup Qualifying play, the USA rebounded in its second game to earn an critical split in window three and finish 5-1 in first round play and claim first place in Group C.
JUNE/JULY 2018 USA RESULTS (1-1)
Falling into a 21-point hole in the first quarter, the USA fought back to within two points but was unable to get any closer as the Americans dropped their first FIBA Americas World Cup Qualifying game to Mexico 78-70 in front of a packed house and vocal home crowd on June 28, 2018, in Mexico City, Mexico.
Marcus Thornton led four U.S. scorers in double digits with 14 points; Xavier Munford scored 11 points and dished out five assists; and Reggie Hearn and David Stockton chipped in 10 points apiece.
“Mexico dominated us from the start and that’s on me,” said USA head coach Jeff Van Gundy. “We were not ready to compete at the level Mexico did. Give them all the credit, they played a great, great game. In the second half we competed at a high level and that high level got us back in the game, but we just couldn’t get over the hump.”
Mexico sprinted out to an 18-0 lead as the U.S. missed it first nine shots and after the first 10 minutes the USA had dug itself into a huge hole, trailing 31-10. In the decisive opening quarter the USA managed to make just 3-of-18 shots, while Mexico made 9-of-15 shots.
Trailing 33-10 after Mexico put the first two points of the second quarter on the scoreboard, the Americans, behind Munford’s seven points, posted a 13-2 run to cut the gap to 35-23 with 5:57 to play before half. Mexico turned back the USA charge and outscored the U.S. 10-5 to take 45-28 lead at halftime.
Behind 52-36 with under five minutes to play in the third period, Alex Caruso made a 3 and Thomas added back-to-back 3s as the USA went on a 13-2 scoring run to cut the deficit to two points, 53-51. However, Mexico’s Gabriel Giron scored with :02 remaining in the third and Mexico carried a 55-51 lead into the fourth.
“Yeah, for sure, for sure,” said Thornton about the USA regaining the momentum in the third quarter. “I thought we had a great momentum swing right there, we started stringing together stops, which is really the reason we were able to get into our offense and make some shots and get it going a little bit. That was good going into the fourth quarter, but it’s all about getting stops.”
The USA closed to within two early in the fourth, but Mexico created some breathing room and then made 6-of-8 free throws in the final 1:07 to seal the win.
Mexico’s Francisco Cruz led all scorers in the game with 24 points, and Orlando Mendez added 20 points.
The USA shot just 37.7 percent (26-69 FGs) from the field, while Mexico shot 43.3 percent (26-60 FGs), including an even 40.0 percent (10-25 3pt FGs) from behind the line. Mexico also owned an advantage at the foul line, making 16-of-24 charity tries compared to 9-of-15 shooting by the USA from the line.
After allowing Cuba to score 28 points in the first quarter, the USA defense dug in and limited the hosts to just 18 points over the next two quarters to pave the way to a 93-62 win in the final first round FIBA Americas World Cup Qualifying game on July 1, 2018, in Havana, Cuba.
The game marked the first time the United States men’s national team had played in Cuba since the 1991 Pan American Games.
Claiming first place in Group C, the USA advanced into the FIBA Americas World Cup Qualifying second round as the top-seeded team out of Group C.
“We knew Cuba was really big and athletic, and we had trouble with that in the first quarter,” said USA Van Gundy. “And then after that I thought our defense was outstanding over the last three quarters, and we really shot the ball well from 3. The last three quarters we were outstanding defensively, swarming, they had a size advantage and we overcame that with speed and intensity and passion, and they bounced back well from a rough game in Mexico and a rough start tonight.”
After a back-and forth first quarter, the USA trailed 28-24 at the end of the first period after Cuba finished the opening stanza with an 8-0 run.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Hearn and Caruso gave the U.S. a lead it would never relinquish and ignited a game-deciding 17-0 run that pushed the USA ahead 41-28 with 5:12 to play in the first half.
Outscoring Cuba 20-9 in the second quarter and allowing Cuba just one made field goal and one 3-pointer, the U.S. led 50-37 heading into the midway break.
“We think our athleticism and our length on the defensive end are very helpful to us and we’re a big collection of players that haven’t played together a lot. So, on offense it can sometimes be a little clunky. But we know we can defend, so that has to be our strength,” said Reggie Hearn, who made 4-of-6 3-point shots.
Continuing its defensive dominance, the USA outscored Cuba 24-9 in the third quarter and led 74-46 with one quarter to play. Outproducing Cuba 19-16 in the fourth, the Americans sealed the 93-62 victory.
Six USA players scored in double digits. Hearn and Xavier Munford tied as the USA’s leading scorers with 16 points. David Stockton added 13 points, Alex Caruso notched 11, and Trey McKinney Jones and Marcus Thornton chipped in 10 points apiece.
Outrebounding the bigger Cuba team 43-35, the USA’s effort on the glass was led by Amile Jefferson, Munford, McKinney Jones and Rashawn Thomas, who each pulled down five boards.
The USA hit an even 50.0 percent (32-64 FGs) of its shots from the field, including a red-hot 51.7 percent (15-29 3pt FGs) from 3-point range, while limiting Cuba to just 33.3 percent (20-60 FGs) shooting overall and 21.2 percent (5-23 3pt FGs) from beyond the arc.
“It came down to defense and just talking,” McKinney Jones said. “A lot of defense is just communicating with each other so everybody is on the same page. Obviously in the first quarter we gave up too many points, we were on pace to give them over 100, so I think we did a good job of taking their confidence away. If you give teams like these confidence, that’s where it can be dangerous. So it started with the communication and then it went from there.”
JUNE/JULY 2018 USA MEN'S WORLD CUP QUALIFYING TEAM ROSTER
|NAME||POS||HGT||WGT||AGE||G LEAGUE TEAM/SCHOOL||HOMETOWN|
|Taylor Braun||F||6-7||210||26||Salt Lake City Stars/North Dakota State||Newberg, OR|
|Alex Caruso||G||6-5||205||24||Los Angeles Lakers/Texas A&M||College Station, TX|
|Reggie Hearn||G||6-4||209||26||Grand Rapids Drive/Northwestern||Fort Wayne, IN|
|Jonathan Holmes||F||6-9||242||25||Maine Red Claws/Texas||San Antonio, TX|
|Amile Jefferson||F||6-9||222||25||Maine Red Claws/Texas||Philadelphia, PA|
|Nicki Johnson||G||6-3||200||25||Austin Spurs/Arizona||Gilbert, AZ|
|Kevin Jones||C||6-8||250||28||Baskonia (Spain)/West Virginia||Mount Vernon, NY|
|Trey McKinney Jones||F||6-5||220||27||Fort Wayne Mad Ants/Miami||Milwaukee, WI|
|Xavier Mumford||G||6-3||190||236||Wisconsin Herd/Rhode Island||Newark, NJ|
|David Stockton||G||5-11||165||27||Stockton Kings/Gonzaga||Spokane, WA|
|Rashawn Thomas||F||6-8||230||23||Oklahoma City Blue/Texas A&M-Corpus Christi||Oklahoma City, OK|
|Marcus Thornton||G||6-4||190||25||Canton Charge/William & Mary||Upper Marlboro, MD|
|Head Coach: Jeff Van Gundy|
|Assistant Coach:Josh Longstaff, Erie Bayhawks|
|Assistant Coach: John Thompson II|
|Team Physician: Stephen Foley, Sanford Health (Sioux Falls, SD)|
|Athletic Trainer: Ed Lacerte, ProSports Therapy, Inc. (Waltham and Westford, MA)|
|Team Scout: Mark Fox|
|Video Coordinator: Brad Jones|
JUNE/JULY 2018 USA MEN'S WORLD CUP QUALIFYING TEAM CUMULATIVE STATISTICS