USA Rallies Back From 17 Points Down To Capture 88-77 Win Over Brazil
There’s comebacks, and then there are miraculous comebacks. The USA’s 88-77 win over Brazil in Pan American Games preliminary round action Thursday night in Guadalajara, Mexico is definitely the later! Behind Blake Ahearn’s (Erie BayHawks/Missouri State ’07) 21 points and Justin Dentmon’s (Texas Legends/Washington ’09) 16 points, the USA stormed back from 17 points down midway into the third quarter to claim a remarkable 11-point win.
The win improved the USA to 2-0 in the preliminary group standings and assured the U.S. of advancing into the medal round semifinals with Group B’s No. 1 seed. The loss was the first for Brazil, the two-time defending Pan American Games champs. The USA closes out its preliminary round play Friday against 0-2 Uruguay in a 5:30 p.m. (CDT) game.
“We’ve got competitive guys and we stayed with it, we never hung our heads. I’m just really proud of our guys,” said USA Pan American Games and Tulsa 66ers head coach Nate Tibbetts.
“The thing that I’m most proud of is our guys never stopped staying together. It’s easy when you put a team together and things are going wrong to start pointing fingers. But we had some great leadership tonight from Blake Ahearn and Renaldo Major, they were unbelievable, just telling these guys to stay the course,” Tibbetts added.
The U.S. led 19-18 after the first quarter, and trailed 38-32 at halftime.
Brazil outscored the U.S. 17-6 over the first 5:09 of the third quarter and looked fully in control, leading 55-38 with 4:51 to play in the third period.
But just as suddenly as the U.S. had seen control of the game slip away, they rallied their way back into the game behind a suffocating defense.
Behind relentless defensive pressure, the Americans over the game’s final 14:51 outscored Brazil by an amazing 50-22 tally.
Jerome Dyson (Tulsa 66ers/Connecticut ’10) resuscitated the Americans when he completed a four point play after being fouled on a made 3-pointer with 4:08 left in the quarter. That was the start of an 18-6 finish of the third quarter that saw the U.S. close the deficit to 61-56 with 10 minutes still to play.
“It wasn’t just one guy, we had so many guys at different points in the game that made plays for us and even the guys who weren’t in were on the bench cheering us on. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for us and we’re trying to make the most of it,” said the 27-year-old Ahearn.
The U.S. kept its foot on the gas pedal from the start of the fourth quarter to the finish, and with Ahearn scoring seven of the USA’s first 10 points, the U.S. launched a demoralizing 20-2 offensive run that saw the Americans seize command of the game, 76-63 with 2:55 remaining. From there the USA rolled in for the 88-77 victory.
“I was able to get a couple of layups, knock some shots down, and coach stuck with me and we just took it from there. Like I said it wasn’t just me, there were a whole bunch of guys doing it and that’s what makes it the most fun,” Ahearn added about his scoring.
Aiding the USA offensive showing with 10 point each were Dyson and Donald Sloan (Reno Bighorns/Texas A&M ‘10), while Lance Thomas (Austin Toros/Duke ‘10) added eight points and a game best 12 rebounds, and Marcus Lewis (Tulsa 66ers/Oral Roberts ‘09) posted eight points and nine rebounds.
“Blake (Ahearn) can really shoot, that’s who he is, that’s what he’s about,” said Tibbetts about his 6-2 guard. “But the thing I was most proud of tonight was the way he brought leadership to our team. He really kind of slowed our guys down and just said ‘hey let’s keep out composure.’ Blake was really, really good tonight.”
The U.S. shot 42.8 percent from the field, but limited Brazil to 42.4 percent accuracy, including 36.0 percent from 3-point.
“For us, our defense led to offense and Dice (Jerome Dyson) did a heck of a job picking up the ball full court. It started out there, we were just moving around, talking, being a team and good things happen when you do that,” Ahearn said.
The USA recorded just 11 turnovers and pressured Brazil into 15, and the Americans also won the rebounding battle, outrebounding Brazil 36 to 31.
“We’re going to enjoy this until midnight anyway and then our focus has to be on Uruguay. They’re a team that hasn’t won yet but that doesn’t matter because they play extremely hard. Our assistant coach, Jermaine Byrd, was here today and he said this is the hardest any team has played so you know this is going to be a great challenge,” said Tibbetts.
Day two of Pan American Games action saw In an opening day that saw the Dominican Republic (12-1) bounce back from it one-point loss to the U.S. and earn a 69-55 win over Uruguay (0-2); Argentina (1-1) held off Puerto Rico (1-1) 79-78 for its first win; and host Mexico (1-1) downed Canada (1-1) 79-65.
Assisting Tibbetts on the USA bench are Tulsa 66ers coaching staff members Jermaine Byrd and Dale Osbourne.