Game Preview: USA-Finland
USA vs. Finland
3:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN
Game action at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup officially gets underway Saturday as 24 national teams begin preliminary round play for the world crown.
Defending world champions USA will make its 2014 World Cup debut facing Finland in a 3:30 p.m. (EDT) game that will be broadcast by ESPN.
The 2014 World Cup features four preliminary round groups and each group is comprised of six teams. Over the competition’s first six days each team plays the five other nations in their respective group. Joining the USA and Finland in Group C are the Dominican Republic, New Zealand, Turkey and Ukraine. All of the Group C preliminary round games are being played in Bilbao, Spain, which is the capital of the Biscay province and the 10th largest city in Spain.
The top four finishing teams from each preliminary round group advance to the Round of 16 where the competition will then turn into an NCAA Tournament like competition and teams must win to advance on.
“We will play very hard against Finland because we know they will play very hard against us,” said USA coach Mike Krzyzewski, who is 3-0 in FIBA World Cup opening games.
“Finland is a very well coached team. They rely a lot on threes and they play very, very hard, and seem to be a very close-knit group. (Petteri) Koponen is excellent, he's a big guard who can score, pass, he's one of the better guards in the tournament and he's the key to their team. He gives them even more confidence because of how confidently he plays.”
The USA and Finland meet for the first time ever in the FIBA World Cup. The last time the two nations met in a major senior level FIBA event was 50 years ago at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, when the U.S. claimed a 77-51 victory.
Compiling a 5-3 record and finishing tied for 9th in the 2013 FIBA Europe Championship, Finland was led by Koponen who averaged 13.3 ppg. , 3.4 rpg., and 4.8 apg., while Shawn Huff (8.8 ppg., 4.8 rpg.), Gerald Lee (8.3 ppg., 4.3 rpg.), Sasu Salin (7.1 ppg., 5.0 rpg.) and Tuukka Kotti (7.1 ppg., 5.9 rpg.) rounded out Finland’s top five scorers.
The USA’s 2014 World Cup Team that takes to the court Saturday will average just 24.08 years of age, the youngest of any USA World Championship Team using NBA players and the youngest U.S. team since collegians were used in 1990.
Although the USA boasts of a 16-0 record in World Cup opening games, the Americans have been forced to battle to the final buzzer to win several close calls. In 1990, the USA World Championship Team, led my Krzyzewski, defeated Greece 103-95 in overtime in their opening game. Opening against Australia in the 1978 worlds, the U.S. rallied in the second half to record a narrow 77-75 win.
Since the first World Championship in 1950, the USA has won 11 medals – four gold medals, three silver medals and four bronze medals – while compiling an all-time 114-27 win-loss record.
Just the Facts: Finland
FIBA World Ranking: #39
How Finland Qualified: FIBA Wild Card Selection
2013 FIBA Europe Finish: Tie 9th (5-3)
World Cup Appearances: 0
World Cup Finishes: None
World Cup Record vs. USA: 0-0
Last Senior Team Meeting vs. USA: 1964 OLY (51-77)
2012 Olympic Finish: DNP
2013 Head Coach: Henrik Dettmann
2013 Key Players In FIBA Europe Championship: Petteri Koponen (13.3 ppg. , 3.4 rpg., 4.8 apg), Shawn Huff (8.8 ppg., 4.8 rpg.), Gerald Lee (8.3 ppg., 4.3 rpg.), Sasu Salin (7.1 ppg., 5.0 rpg.), Tuukka Kotti (7.1 ppg., 5.9 rpg.).
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