Mexico Ends USA’s Pan American Games Gold Medal Quest 71-55
There couldn’t have been a worse time for the USA’s shooting to go South. Making just 32.7 percent (18 for 53) of its shots for the game and sinking only 23.5 percent of its attempts from behind the 3-point line, the USA Men’s Pan American Games Team (2-2) lost 71-55 to host Mexico in Saturday’s medal round semifinal at the CODE Dome in Guadalajara, Mexico.
The loss ended the USA’s gold medal quest and put the Americans in Sunday’s bronze medal game against the Dominican Republic, which lost 85-77 to Puerto Rico in the other semifinal contest Saturday.
“I’m really proud of our guys’ effort, but we had trouble scoring tonight,” said USA Pan American Games and Tulsa 66ers head coach Nate Tibbetts. “It was a highly competitive game, a great atmosphere, both teams really competed. Mexico just kept coming at us and we didn’t make shots when we needed to.
“We had good looks, but some days it goes in and some days it doesn’t. I thought our execution was better than yesterday, I thought we made a good step there. They play really physical defense and I don’t know if it bothered us, but we did have some good looks, they just didn’t go in.”
The USA controlled the first quarter and following a pair of free throws from Jerome Dyson (Tulsa 66ers/Connecticut ’10) and a dunk by Renaldo Major (Dakota Wizards/Fresno State ’04), the USA led 15-7 with2:36 left in the opening quarter.
Mexico closed out the quarter with a pair of baskets and the U.S. lead heading into the second quarter stood at 15-11.
U.S. guard Blake Ahearn (Erie BayHawks/Missouri State ’07) scored four of the USA’s first six points in the opening minutes of the second stanza, and the U.S. enjoyed a 21-15 advantage with 6:16 remaining before halftime.
But suddenly Mexico got things rolling. Getting 3-pointers from three different players, Mexico, to the delight of its raucous capacity crowd, closed the first half with a 19-8 scoring run to grab a 34-29 lead at halftime.
The USA, despite struggling to find its shooting eye, hung in the game thanks to its defense. Cutting Mexico’s lead to two, 40-38, after a Leo Lyons (Austin Toros/Missouri ’09) 3-pointer, the U.S. trailed 45-41 after Marcus Lewis (Tulsa 66ers/Oral Roberts ’09) scored inside. Mexico’s Jovan Harris sank a pair of free throws for the third quarter’s last points, and with 10 minutes to play the Americans were still in contention, but trailing 47-41.
With 6:08 remaining in the game, Ahearn found net on a 3-pointer for the U.S. and Mexico was still within reach, 56-48. However, Mexico, in the span of 1:14, scored seven straight points to up its advantage to 63-48 with 4:54 left.
Lewis scored inside following a USA timeout to stop Mexico’s run, but Mexico posted four more points to push back out ahead 67-50 1:54 to play and clear the path for its 71-55 win.
“It was just a tough day. We didn’t make many shots and in a game like this you’ve got to make shots,” stated Major. “We played great defense the whole four quarters, we just didn’t make shots and that’s what it came down to. We tried to play our best, we played hard, it’s just that we didn’t make shots and they did.”
Lyons finished as the USA’s leading scorer with 13 points and made 5-of-7 shots overall and was a perfect 3-of-3 from 3-point. Dyson added 10 points and five rebounds, while Blake tossed in nine points, and Donald Sloan (Reno Bighorns/Texas A&M ’10) accounted for seven points and a USA best eight rebounds.
“They got into us and pressured us and they got us out of our offense and so it was hard for us to move the ball,” said Dyson. “It was a real tough night for us shooting. We just couldn’t get our offense going; we didn’t have any easy shots.”
The U.S. committed 17 turnovers and was outrebounded 40 to 31.
The U.S. now faces the always difficult task of bouncing back from the semifinal loss to play in the bronze medal game Sunday, 10:30 a.m. (CDT).
“We’ve got to bounce back, obviously we’re disappointed just like anyone would be. But tomorrow’s game is a big game for us, we have an opportunity to win a bronze medal and not a lot of people can say they won a bronze medal,” remarked Tibbetts.
Added USA center Gregory Stiemsma (Sioux Falls Skyforce/Wisconsin ’09) on the task facing the Americans tomorrow, “We came down here for a gold medal and that’s obviously not going to happen but we’ve still got to play with some pride. You know not a lot of people get this opportunity to play for a bronze so we’ve got to take advantage of that. Hopefully we can get some momentum going tomorrow.”
A medal finish in 2011 would be the USA men’s first medal in Pan Am action since a silver medal placing in 1999. The Americans have earned a medal in 12 of their 15 previous Pan Am Games appearances, including a record eight golds, as well as three silvers and one bronze. The U.S. men currently own an 86-15 (.851 winning percentage) all-time mark at the Pan Am Games.
In other action completed Saturday, Brazil bested Canada 74-56 to earn a fifth place finish, while Argentina edged Uruguay 71-69 to claim seventh place.
Assisting Tibbetts on the USA bench are Tulsa 66ers coaching staff members Jermaine Byrd and Dale Osbourne.