USA Wraps Up Pool Play With 95-71 Win Over Ukraine
• VIDEO: Game Recap
The USA (5-0) wrapped up its preliminary-round play with a 95-71 win against Ukraine (2-3) on Thursday evening at Bizkaia Arena in Bilbao, Spain. After a first-quarter fight that saw Ukraine take a five-point lead at the first break, the USA battled back to secure control of the game and led 44-32 at halftime and 69-53 at the third-quarter intermission.
The USA will take on Mexico (2-3), the No. 4 seed from Group D, in the round of 16 on Sept. 6 (time TBD) in Barcelona, Spain.
“I thought we got off to a very slow start offensively,” said USA coach Mike Krzyzewski (Duke University). “Steph's (Curry) right, I thought our defense was good throughout until we got a pretty good lead. They were 1-for-13 from 3, we really wanted to take away their 3-point shooting and I thought we did that until later.
“I think this team has been pretty balanced. We haven't really shot the 3 as much as our three previous teams and it just worked out that way. I think part of it is once we started hitting a couple of 3s, the inside opened and our guys were very unselfish, what did we have 25 assists and 10 turnovers? And as a result of that we got stuff in the paint. The other thing, points in the paint are also fast breaks, so you get a few steals and those are pretty high percentage points. But we had good balance. We scored 14 points in the first quarter and then ended up with 95 for the game. We started to play a lot better; we had a 30-point quarter in the second quarter after having that slow start.”
Again featuring a balanced scoring attack, six players finished in double-figures for the U.S. James Harden (Houston Rockets) scored 17 points, including 10 in the third quarter, and dished out five assists; Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors) added 14 points while shooting 3-of-4 from 3-point; Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans) finished with 12 points and six rebounds; DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings) and Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers), who also dished out six assists, scored 11 points apiece; and Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets) added 10 points and eight rebounds.
“They played really hard, really physical, and they got after us from the beginning of the game,” Harden said. “It forced us to play really well. No matter what the score says, they never gave up, and it showed here tonight.”
The USA was slow to start the game, and for a second straight night was plagued by poor shooting – 6-of-19 (.316) – in the first 10 minutes. While its defense did hold Ukraine to the very same shooting performance (6-19 FGs, .316), the USA sent Ukraine to the line four times, where it shot a perfect 7-of-7 to help take a 19-14 lead at the first break. Also helping Ukraine to compile its early lead was a 16-10 rebounding advantage.
“It was a rough start for us tonight; we started off a little slow,” said Curry. “Defensively, I think we were locked in, it’s just offensively we weren't in synch and it took us a minute to get going, so we've got to just do that going forward. But our effort and intensity were there and just happy to finish out pool play 5-0. That was the mission coming in, take each game one at a time; try to get better every game and I think we accomplished that. Still (we) can play a little bit better. I'm looking forward to getting to Barcelona and start the next part of the journey - the medal round.”
The teams matched each other over the first three minutes of the second period, however, an old-fashioned three-point play from Cousins and a 3-pointer from Irving helped the USA cut it to two points, 24-22, at 7:07. After two tied scores, Curry’s 3-pointer at 3:59 gave the USA its first lead, 30-27, since it was ahead 2-0 to start the game. A 7-0 stretch from 2:23 to 1:20 in the quarter spurred the USA to a 44-32 halftime lead.
Ukraine played hard throughout the game, but never came closer than 13 points in the third quarter, as Harden scored 10 of his points in the period to help the USA lead 69-54 headed into the final 10 minutes.
The USA ran away with the game by outscoring Ukraine 26-17 in the fourth to bring the game to its 95-71 final.
“Coach told us to come in with our egos because that is what got us here, but come in ready to participate and play on a team,” said Faried on the USA team. “This is nobody’s team, it’s everyone all coming together for one common goal and that’s to win gold for the USA.
The USA shooting warmed up to 50.7 percent for the game (37-73 FGs) and righted the rebounding column by grabbing 42 to Ukraine’s 34. The USA also recorded 25 assists on its 37 made baskets.
“One last thing, just from our whole contingent, we want to thank the people of Bilbao, the organizing committee, everything was perfect,” added Krzyzewski. “Our play wasn’t always perfect, but the support and how the conditions were, the hotel, everything was just unbelievable. Thank you for treating us that way.”
Also today in the USA’s Group C: New Zealand (2-3) survived against Finland (1-4) 67-65, and Turkey (2-2) will play Dominican Republic (2-2) this evening. In Group A in Granada, Spain: Brazil (4-1) cruised past Egypt (0-5) 128-65; France (3-2) got a win against Iran (1-4) 81-76; and host Spain (4-0) will meet Serbia (2-2) in the late game. In Group B in Seville, Spain: Philippines (1-4) edged out Senegal (2-3) in overtime 81-79; Croatia (3-2) topped Puerto Rico (1-4) 103-82; and Argentina (3-1) will face Greece (4-0) tonight. Finally, in Group D in Gran Canaria, Spain: Angola (2-3) beat Australia (3-2) 91-83; Mexico (2-3) defeated South Korea (0-5) 87-71; and Lithuania (3-1) plays Slovenia (4-0) tonight.
Before tonight’s final games, which will determine the remainder of the seedings, several teams along with the USA are assured a place in the round of 16, including: Argentina, Australia, Brazil (Group A No. 2), Greece, Lithuania, Senegal, Slovenia and host Spain (Group A No. 1).
Eliminated from the tournament were: Egypt, Finland and Philippines.
Rounding out Krzyzewski’s USA National Team staff as assistant coaches are Syracuse University and Naismith Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and New Orleans Pelicans head coach Monty Williams.
The top four finishing teams from each of the four preliminary round groups qualify for the round of 16. Winners of the round of 16 games will advance to the quarterfinals, while losers are eliminated. Quarterfinal winners will advance to the medal round semifinals, and quarterfinals losers are eliminated from the competition. Winners of the semifinals will advance to the Sept. 14 gold medal game, and semifinals losers will meet in the bronze medal game on Sept. 13. The round of 16 and semifinals games will be played in Barcelona and Madrid, and the bronze and gold medal games will be held in Madrid.
Since the first FIBA World Championship was held in 1950, the USA has won 11 medals – four gold medals, three silver medals and four bronze medals – while compiling an all time 119-27 win-loss record. Led By Krzyzewski, the Americans are defending World Champions having claim gold in Istanbul with a 9-0 record.
STAT NOTES: The USA scored 32 points off of Ukraine’s 19 turnovers and scored 22 second-chance points compared to Ukraine’s 13 points off of offensive rebounds.