USA Nipped By Uruguay 82-80 In Pan American Games Action
After making the plays needed in the closing minutes to win their first two games at the Pan American Games, the USA (2-1) came up short Friday night in Guadalajara, Mexico, and fell 82-80 to Uruguay (1-2) in its final preliminary round game. The game’s outcome knocked the U.S. from the unbeaten ranks, but had no bearing on the medal round semifinals as Thursday’s comeback victory over Brazil insured the U.S. of Group B’s No. 1 seed. The American squad will face Group A No. 2 seed and host Mexico (2-1) at 1 p.m. (CDT) in the first of the Saturday’s two semifinal medal round games.
“I thought it was a competitive game. Uruguay played extremely hard and they just kept fighting us, kept fighting us and they made the plays down the stretch,” said USA Pan American Games and Tulsa 66ers head coach Nate Tibbetts.
“I thought offensively we were really lackadaisical as far as getting into our stuff, and a lot of the credit for that has to go to Uruguay. They played their butts off and we knew they were going to come in and play hard,” added Tibbetts.
The game came down to plays in the final minute and Uruguay made enough to slip past the U.S.
Trailing 81-77 with 33.9 seconds to play, the U.S. forced a turnover and Jerome Dyson (Tulsa 66ers/Connecticut ’10), who paced the U.S. with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the floor and 4-of-6 from 3-point, made Uruguay pay for the miscue when he nailed a 3-pointer with 11 seconds to play to pull the USA within a point, 81-80.
Fouling Uruguay captain Martin Osimani with 9.2 seconds remaining, Osimani made one of his two free throws to up Uruguay’s lead to 82-80 and leave the door open for the U.S. to win the game with a three.
Following a U.S. timeout, Dyson was fouled on a drive to the basket, but Uruguay had one foul to give so the USA looked to inbound the ball again with 5.8 seconds left.
Looking to Dyson who lost his defender thanks to a couple of screens, the 6-3 guard got the ball at the top of the key but slipped as he caught the pass. Landing on the floor and still possessing the ball with time running out, Dyson lofted a shot at the basket from a sitting position that was off the mark and Uruguay had the win.
“I slipped and hit the floor and I just didn’t know how much time was left and so I was just trying to get shot up to at least get an attempt off,” recalled Dyson of the last play.
USA coach Tibbetts got what he was hoping for on the last two plays. “On the first play at the end we were trying to get an isolation for Jerome Dyson and they did a good job of coming up and fouling him,” recalled Tibbetts. “On the next play we were running a special with a pin down action for him and I thought he had a good opportunity but he slipped and fell and that’s the way the game goes sometimes.”
Dyson was the only USA player to score in double digits, however, Blake Ahearn (Erie BayHawks/Missouri State ’07) and Justin Dentmon (Texas Legends/Washington ’09) accounted for nine points each, Marcus Lewis (Tulsa 66ers/Oral Roberts ‘09) contributed eight points.
The three-ball was falling early and often for the Americans. Sinking six threes in the game’s first 10 minutes, the U.S. led by 13, 18-5, after Gregory Stiemsma (Sioux Falls Skyforce/Wisconsin ’09) completed a three-point play by scoring inside and making his free throw.
Carrying a 29-20 lead into the second quarter, the USA advantage reached a high of 14 points after Ahearn sank three free throws after being fouled on an attempted 3-pointer.
Uruguay continued for fight, and at halftime the Americans lead stood at 53-42.
Over the game’s first two quarters, the USA made 8-of-17 threes and was 11-of-12 from the foul line.
The USA was still comfortably ahead midway through the third quarter and following a Renaldo Major (Dakota Wizards/Fresno State ’04) basket, the U.S. had upped its lead to 62-49 with 4:32 left in the period.
Uruguay suddenly found its stride offensively, and reeled off 13 straight points with the last points of the spurt coming on an Osimani 3-pointer that left the score even at 62 with 50 seconds left in the third stanza.
Lance Thomas (Austin Toros/Duke ‘10) finished off the quarter with a basket and the Americans took a 64-62 lead into the final quarter.
Following a Lewis basket inside and two free throws from Major, the U.S. seemingly had regained control and led 68-62. But Uruguay fought back and ran off eight straight points to grab the lead 70-68 with 6:38 to go.
The USA countered with a 5-0 run to regain the lead 73-70 at with 4:30 remaining, but Uruguay drained back-to-back 3-pointers and posted another 8-0 run that pushed them into the lead for good 78-73 with 2:46 showing n the clock.
“This loss is a reality check for us. It’s good to wake us up and let us know we’ve got to come hard, every possession, every minute, every second, and if we do that we’ll have a good chance to win the gold medal. But if we come out like we came out today it’s not going to look good for us,” said Lewis.
Mexico improved to 2-1 and claimed Group A’s no. 2 seed by whipping Argentina (1-2) 83-56 in the night’s last game. In Friday’s other games, Puerto Rico (2-1) pounded Canada (1-2) 80-58 to claim first place in Group A, while, in a battle for second place in Group B, the Dominican Republic (2-1) rallied in the fourth quarter to take down Brazil (1-2) 85-77.
In addition to the USA facing the host nation in the 1 p.m. (CDT) semifinal, Puerto Rico will take on the Dominican Republic in the 8 p.m. (CDT) semifinal game. The winners of the two semifinals will advance into Sunday’s 1 p.m. (CDT) gold medal contest. Saturday’s schedule also calls for Canada and Brazil to clash in the game to determine fifth place, while Argentina will square off against Uruguay in a game to decide seventh place.
“Tomorrow is another day and we play at 1 p.m. and it’s good that we play early so it won’t be too much a hangover, we can just go home and get a good meal, sleep and be ready to play tomorrow,” stated Major, the team’s oldest member. “This is what we wanted to do. We wanted to put ourselves in the position to win the gold medal and we’re in that position now. If we can go out and win tomorrow we’ll be in the gold medal game, so we’re still okay.”
Assisting Tibbetts on the USA bench are Tulsa 66ers coaching staff members Jermaine Byrd and Dale Osbourne.