USA Men’s U16 National Team Advances To Gold Medal Game After Hard-Fought 119-76 Victory Over Argentina
BAHIA BLANCA, Argentina (June 13, 2015) -- For the fourth time in as many editions of the FIBA Americas U16 Championship, the USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team (4-0) will play for the gold medal after surpassing host Argentina (2-2) 119-76 in Saturday night’s medal semifinal contest. Looking for its fourth FIBA Americas U16 gold medal, the USA is now a perfect 19-0 overall in U16 play since the biennial tournament launched in 2009.
“Argentina is extremely tough to play on their home court with the home crowd,” said USA head coach Don Showalter (Iowa City H.S., Iowa), who has also coached the previous three USA U16 National Teams. “They are a very aggressive team, but I thought our players responded very well to playing against their defense. We have played against Argentina many times over the past years and every time it is a very physical game like the one tonight.”
The USA will face Canada (4-0), which defeated Dominican Republic (2-2) 95-49 in the evening’s first semifinal game, for the gold medal at 6:30 p.m. EDT on June 14. The game will be streamed live online at FIBAAmericas.com. Argentina and Dominican Republic will play for the bronze medal at 4:15 p.m. EDT.
With a balanced scoring attack, which featured seven U.S. players in double digits and saw every member of the team score at least four points, the North Americans had three U16 records fall against Argentina. Tre Jones (Apple Valley H.S./Appel Valley, Minn.) set a new USA U16 single-game record for steals with seven, surpassing Theo Pinson’s six against Argentina in 2011, while his 14 steals over four games is tied for the USA U16 competition record. Further, Jordan Brown (Woodcreek H.S./ Roseville, Calif.) was a perfect 8-of-8 from the line to jump ahead of Sterling Gibbs (6-6 FTs in 2009) on the USA’s single-game free throw percentage list.
“It’s crazy, all the great players who have come through here and I’m the one with the steals record,” said Jones. “I’m speechless. I don’t know what to say about that.”
In a hard-fought game in which 60 whistles were blown, the USA hit 78.9 percent (30-38 FTs) its tries from the line to break the USA U16 single-game record of 71.0 percent (22-31 FTs), previously set against Argentina in 2013.
Leading the USA’s scoring effort were Brown and Markus Howard (Findlay Prep, Nev./Chandler, Ariz.) with 16 apiece, Gary Trent Jr. (Apple Valley H.S./Apple Valley, Minn.) scored 15 points, Wendell Carter Jr. (Pace Academy/Fairburn, Ga.) notched 12, Javonte Smart (Scotlandville HS/Baton Rouge, La.) scored 11 points, while Jones and Kevin Knox II (Tampa Catholic H.S./Tampa, Fla.) contributed 10 points apiece.
“The international play in general is very physical,” said Howard. “We knew it was going to be extra physical tonight, just because of being in Argentina and playing Argentina, that they wanted to make a statement to their home crowd. So, we knew we had to come and be physical with them as they were with us. We knew what to expect coming into the game today.”
The USA struck first with a 3-pointer from Smart 20 seconds into the game, and went up 18-4 at the 6:16 mark. The USA continued to hold a double-digit lead through the remainder of the quarter, which ended with the U.S. leading 33-17.
The North Americans pulled ahead by 20 points, 39-19, early in the second quarter. Following an Argentina field goal, the red, white and blue strung together 10-consecutive points, eight of which came from Howard, to build a comfortable 49-20 cushion with 4:11 to play before halftime. The USA outscored Argentina 11-6 and headed to its locker room with a sizeable 60-26 advantage.
However, playing on its home court in front of a packed house and Argentina basketball legend Manu Ginobili, who hails from Bahía Blanca, the Argentine U16 squad was not about to back down.
“They probably wanted to play pretty good for him,” said Jones. “They played really good. They’re a great team, a great club. It was just a lot of fun tonight with a great atmosphere.”
The hosts came roaring out of the midway break on an 11-2 tear. However, the USA’s depth was simply too much as Trent hit back-to-back jumpers to spark a 17-3 run in which four different U.S. players scored, and with 2:46 remaining in the third period, the USA’s lead was 79-40.
“We knew we had to communicate,” said Howard. “We knew we weren’t communicating that well on defense, so once we really started communicating and picking up off each other brains, we were able to come back and cut that run down and do what we know how to do.”
By the end of the third quarter, the USA led 92-48. Argentina outscored the USA 28-27 in the fourth quarter for the 119-76 final.
“Argentina is a great team,” Jones added. “It was a great atmosphere. It’s probably one of the funnest I’ve ever played in.”
In addition to his 16 points, Howard dished out a game-high five of the USA’s 15 assists, while also being credited with five of the USA’s 17 steals.
The USA only turned the ball over 10 times, while forcing 27 from Argentina, resulting in 31 points. The North Americans won the battle on the glass 48-38 and outscored Argentina 60-26 points in the paint.
Argentina’s Agustin Perez shot 5-of-7 from 3-point and led all scorers with 20 points.
Assisting Showalter and the 2015-16 USA Junior National Team are Miles Simon (California Supreme AAU) and Sharman White (Miller Grove H.S., Ga.).
In addition to the USA’s three-straight gold medals, Argentina has claimed all three silver medals and Canada has earned the three U16 bronze medals awarded since 2009.
“Canada as I have said before is very similar to us athletically and basketball skill wise,” added Showalter. “We certainly will not take them lightly as we know this will be a gold-medal game and everything is on the line. Both teams have been much better since the scrimmage, so we certainly are not overlooking them in the gold medal game.”
In classification semifinal games, Puerto Rico (2-2) defeated Venezuela (0-4) 81-70, while Brazil (1-3) downed Mexico (1-3) 80-69. Puerto Rico will face Brazil in Sunday’s fifth place game, while Venezuela will meet up with Mexico in the seventh place game.
The U16 tournament serves as the Americas zone qualifier for the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship, and the top four finishing nations from the FIBA Americas U16 Championship, the four medal semifinalists -- Argentina, Canada, Dominican Republic and the USA -- have earned the four FIBA Americas spots for the 2016 U17 Worlds.
Held every other year, the FIBA Americas U16 Championship first was contested in 2009, and under the direction of Showalter, the USA has earned the gold medal in all three editions.