Two-Time Defending U17 Gold Medalist USA Earns Hard-Fought 83-73 Victory Over Greece To Open FIBA Men’s U17 World Championship
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Two-time defending FIBA U17 World Championship for Men gold medalist, the 2014 USA U17 World Championship Team (1-0) opened preliminary round play at the third U17s by defeating a strong Greece (0-1) squad 83-73 on Friday night at the Al-Ahli Arena in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The U.S. squad, which led from wire to wire, was led by Diamond Stone’s (Dominican H.S./Milwaukee, Wis.) game-high 22 points and 10 rebounds; while Malik Newman (Callaway H.S./Jackson, Miss.) scored 13 points and Jayson Tatum (Chaminade College Prep/St. Louis, Mo.) added 10.
The USA’s opening victory was carried live on ESPN3 and fans will be able to watch the replay tonight at midnight (EDT) on ESPNU/Watch ESPN.
Next up for the U.S. squad is a game against Angola (1-0) on Aug. 9 (8:30 a.m. EDT on ESPNU/Watch ESPN), followed by its final preliminary round contest against Philippines (0-1) on Aug. 11 (10:45 a.m. EDT on ESPNU/Watch ESPN).
“One of the things I really liked about our team is that the guys off the bench came in with really high energy every time and our defense was pretty good down the stretch,” said USA head coach Don Showalter (Iowa City H.S., Iowa). “We had some really good stops against some really good guards. They had two guards who played at the (2014 European) U18s as well. We played a really good team and we’re really proud that we came away with the win tonight. We knew it would be a battle.
“This was probably one of the best teams we’ve faced in all the U17 games (2010 and 2012). They had four guys who played in the (2014 European) U18s. (Vasilis Charalampopoulos) is a really good player. He was all-tournament at the U18s. And the big guy (Giorgios Papagiannis) has got a really nice touch around the basket, so we knew they were going to be a good team. Our kids knew it was going to be a battle the whole game, which it was.”
Following preliminary round play teams will be seeded within each group and all 16 teams will advance to the round of 16, which will be contested Aug. 12. Quarterfinals are slated for Aug. 14, semifinals will be played Aug. 15 and the finals will take place Aug. 16. Should the U.S. men continue to advance, all of their games will be carried by ESPNU/Watch ESPN or ESPN3.
“We got the win,” said Stone, who scored 18 of his 22 by halftime. “This was a big deal for us. Greece is a great team. We just came out of the gate and were attacking the rim. Our coach told us not to settle for jump shots, so we took that into consideration and started attacking the rim and started increasing the lead.”
While the red, white and blue struck first, a pair of Tatum buckets gave the U.S. a 4-0 lead to start the game, and went up 9-2 after Stone got an and-one and a dunk, Greece was never far behind. Nearly every time the Americans started pulling away, the Greeks found a way to pull back the reins.
Holding onto a 25-19 lead with five seconds to play in the first quarter, it looked as if the USA found some momentum after Tyus Battle (Gill St. Bernard’s School/ Edison, N.J.) connected on a long, buzzer-beating 3-pointer that pushed his side ahead 28-19 at the first break.
Fueled by back-to-back buckets by Stone, the USA increased its lead to double digits, 32-20, at 8:13.
“Diamond was great,” recalled Newman. “He was a big factor for us because he can work from the inside-out. For us to feed him early and for him get going kind of opened up the game for us guards.”
However, Greece, which has four athletes who competed on the 2014 Greece U18 National Team at the recent European U18 Championship, again fought back. Giorgios Papagiannis got his team started with a basket at 7:51 and stepped aside as 2014 European U18 Championship All-Tournament Team selection Vasilis Charalampopoulos scored nine unanswered points in just about every way possible, while the Americans were unable to convert.
“I think today we came out thinking we were going to blow this team out and it wasn’t that easy,” added Stone. “So, now we have that chip on our shoulder and we’re going to bring it the rest of the games.”
After the 11-0 run in all by Greece, its longest run of the contest, narrowed the USA’s advantage to a single point, 32-31, Showalter called for a time-out to regroup. Coming out of the breather the Americans drove inside and converted 4-of-6 from the line and at 4:08 it was the Greek coach who stopped play to stop the USA’s momentum. It didn’t work, however, as Terrence Ferguson (Prime Prep Academy/Flower Mound, Texas), who finished with four points, got an quick steal and dunk to spur a 9-2 spurt that ended at 2:03 with the USA up 45-33 and Greece again calling for time.
Greece never again got closer than eight points and the USA came away with the victory.
“It was a good game,” said Newman. “Basketball is a game of runs. At first we got kind of shook up by it, but we had to think about it, toughen up and believe in each other, trust in each other and just fight through it.”
The USA owned a narrow 43-38 rebounding margin, but allowed Greece to grab 22 on the offensive glass. The USA was able to score just 10 points off of Greece’s 11 turnovers, and gave up 15 points on its 16 miscues. However, the U.S. outscored Greece 46-28 in the paint and 11-3 on the fast break. The U.S. shot an even 50.0 percent (31-62 FGs) from the field and 25.0 percent (4-16 3pt FGs) from 3-point range. In contrast, the USA’s defensive effort held Greece to just 32.9 percent (23-70 FGs) from the field and 20.7 percent (6-29 3ptFGs) from beyond the arc. Both teams netted about the same from the line as the USA shot 81.0 percent (17-21 FTs) and Greece hit 80.8 percent (21-26 FTs).
“Looking at the stats, I like the way we had 17 assists, which is really good,” said Showalter. “But, we had 16 turnovers as well. They did a great job on the offensive boards. They had 22 offensive rebounds and that’s too many for us to give up. Their 3-point shooting hurt us at times, but they were 6-of-29, so in the long run their 3s might hurt them down the stretch. I think they were looking for that a little too much.”
Charalampopoulos and Papagiannis led Greece with 17 and 16 points, respectively, while the latter grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
In the other Group A game today, Angola defeated Philippines 82-72. In Group B action, Australia (1-0) defeated Japan (0-1) 97-84 in overtime and France (1-0) downed Canada (0-1) 76-66; Group C play saw Italy (1-0) earn a 121-32 lopsided victory over host UAE (0-1) and Puerto Rico (1-0) edged Spain (0-1) 67-65; while in Group D, Serbia (1-0) took down China (0-1) 80-68 and Argentina (1-0) earned a 74-39 win over Egypt (0-1).
Ivan Rabb (Bishop O’Dowd H.S./ Oakland, Calif.) injured his left ankle during the team’s training camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and is listed as day-to-day.
Two-time defending U17 gold medalist, the USA now has a perfect 17-0 record at the U17s. The U.S. qualified for this year’s U17s by virtue of its gold-medal finish at the 2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship.
Players eligible for this competition must be citizens of the country they represent and have been born on or after Jan. 1, 1997.
Joining Showalter on the sideline as USA assistant coaches are Eric Flannery (St. Edward High School, Ohio) and L.J. Goolsby (KC Run GMC, Kan.).
2010 was the inaugural FIBA U17 World Championship for Men. The USA captured gold with a perfect 8-0 record and Brad Beal was tabbed MVP of the tournament of the biennial event. In 2012 Jahlil Okafor earned MVP honors and was joined on the all-tournament team by Justise Winslow as the U.S. again rolled up a perfect 8-0 slate en route to gold.
Based in Colorado Springs, Colo., USA Basketball, chaired by Jerry Colangelo, is a nonprofit organization and the national governing body for men’s and women’s basketball in the United States. As the recognized governing body for basketball in the U.S. by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Basketball is responsible for the selection, training and fielding of USA teams that compete in FIBA-sponsored international competitions, as well as for some national competitions.
During the 2009-12 quadrennium, 1,273 male and female players and 235 coaches participated in USA Basketball, including USA Basketball teams and trials, and USA Basketball 3x3 FIBA championships.
USA Basketball men’s and women’s teams between 2009-12 compiled an impressive 262-35 win-loss record in FIBA and FIBA Americas competitions, the Pan American Games, the World University Games, the Nike Hoop Summit and in exhibition games.
USA teams are the current men’s and women’s champions in the Olympics; men’s and women’s FIBA World Championships (Basketball World Cup); men’s and women’s FIBA U19 and U17 World Championships; men’s and women’s U18 and U16 FIBA Americas Championships; the FIBA 3x3 Women’s World Championship; and the FIBA 3x3 Women’s U18 World Championship. USA Basketball currently ranks No. 1 in all five of FIBA’s world-ranking categories, including combined, men’s, women’s, boys and girls.
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