USA Men Remain Undefeated With 102-70 Rout of Puerto Rico
TORONTO, Canada - On a night when six USA players combined to make 11 3-pointers, it was a 20-0 run midway through the second quarter that powered the U.S. Pan American Men’s Basketball Team (2-0) to a 102-70 rout of Puerto Rico (0-2) at the Pan American Games Wednesday night in Toronto, Canada.
The win improved the USA record to 2-0 and guaranteed the Americans of advancing to the medal round semifinals on Friday. The USA concludes preliminary round play Thursday (9 p.m. EDT) against 2-0 Brazil in a clash to decide the No. 1 seed for Group A. The game is scheduled to be broadcast live on ESPN2.
“I think they’ve (Brazil) been playing as good or better than anybody in this tournament,” said USA and Gonzaga University head coach Mark Few. “They’ve just been rock solid. They don’t beat themselves. They are an excellent defensive team. They are an excellent offensive team the way they move the ball and pass it is really, really impressive. And they’ve got good size, and they are very physical around the rim. So, this will be our biggest test yet. You are going to have to beat this team. They are not going to beat themselves.”
The USA owns a 13-4 all-time win-loss record against Brazil in Pan American Games competitions, but is just 3-3 versus the 2016 Olympic Games host since 1995.
“Anytime you hold a team to 30.0 percent shooting and you shoot 50.0 percent, you blast them on the boards by 14 or 15 like we did, you’re going to win, as long as you take care of the ball,” said Few of his team’s showing Wednesday. “I thought the guys did a great job.
“We were a little bit worried about the press and that interim phase of our early offense where we weren’t very smooth last night. We were much, much better tonight.”
Thanks two back-to-back 3-pointers from Elias Ayuso, Puerto Rico jumped out to a 7-2 lead. But behind five points from Damien Wilkins (Indios de Mayagüez, Puerto Rico/Orlando, Fla.), the U.S. scored nine straight points to take an 11-7 lead and never again trailed.
Holding a 14-12 lead, four different U.S. players connected from behind the 3-point arc, and the USA outscored Puerto Rico 15-8 to take a 29-20 lead at the end of the first period.
Puerto Rico made a pair of free throws with 7:13 left in the second quarter to make the score 35-25, but from that point on it was all USA.
University of Virginia rising senior guard Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia/Atlanta, Ga.) got the USA’s monstrous 20-0 run started, and after Michigan State University rising senior guard Denzel Valentine (Michigan State/Lansing, Mich.) scored to cap the run with 2:44 remaining before halftime, the USA had steamrolled out to 55-25 lead.
Closing the second stanza with 3-pointers from Wilkins and Bobby Brown (Dongguan Leopards, China/Los Angeles, Calif.), the USA took a 65-29 lead to the locker room and sailed to the 102-70 victory.
“Guys came in the game and stepped in and made shots,” said Brown, who sank 5-of-6 3-pointers, tying the USA single game Pan American Games record for made 3s which was done twice by Carl Thomas during the 1995 Games. “We had a lot of easy looks. Guys created for their teammates and made the extra pass. Coach has been harping on making the extra pass. And that’s what we did today. Guys just came in and stepped up and made shots, and that was real positive for us.”
The USA’s 102 points marked the first time a U.S. Pan American Games squad had scored 100 or more points since the Americans defeated Mexico 104-80 in 1995, a string of 24 games.
All 12 USA team members scored and recorded at least one rebound, led by 16 points from Brown, 15 points apiece from Valentine and Wilkins, and 10 points by Taurean Prince (Baylor/San Antonio, Texas).
The USA, led by Brown’s six assists, recorded assists on 20 of its 36 made field goals.
Man-handling Puerto Rico 53-39 on the glass, Kaleb Tarczewski (Arizona/Claremont, N.H.) pulled in seven rebounds to lead the team, while Ron Baker (Wichita State/Scott City, Kan.) and Anthony Randolph (Lokomotiv-Kuban, Russia/ Pasadena, Calif.) each accounted for six boards.
Overall the USA shot 50.0 percent from the field, and after making 10-of-17 3s in the first half, finished 11-of-30 from beyond the arc.
“That was because we were making the extra pass, and there weren’t any tough shots,” said Valentine about the USA’s shooting in the win. “I thought Tuesday (versus Venezuela), we tried to take some tough shots and got out of our rhythm. But once we get easy shots, then our 3-ball starts to fall.”
Puerto Rico shot just 30.1 percent overall and was only 3-of-27 from 3-point.
Wednesday’s other preliminary round play saw Brazil (2-0) remain perfect after disposing of Venezuela (0-2) 79-64, Dominican Republic (1-1) defeated Mexico (1-1) 95-70 and Canada (2-0) posted an 88-83 decision over Argentina (0-2).
The 2015 Pan American Games men’s basketball competition is being held July 21-25 in Toronto, Canada.
The top two finishing teams from each preliminary-round group will advance to the medal-round semifinals on July 24, while the third and fourth-placed teams will play for fifth-eighth places. The semifinal winners will compete for the gold medal on July 25, and the semifinal losers will play for bronze.
Assisting Few with the 2015 U.S. Pan American Men’s Basketball Team is University of Colorado’s Tad Boyle and longtime NBA coach Mike Brown.
Overall, the Americans have now compiled an 89-15 record and captured eight gold medals, three silver medals and two bronze medals.