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USA Men Rally From 21 Points Down To Win Pan Am Games Bronze Medal

  • Date:
    Jul 25, 2015

TORONTO, Canada – After putting itself in a huge hole, the U.S. Pan American Games Men’s Basketball Team (3-2) stormed back from a 21-point third quarter deficit to claim an 87-82 victory over Dominican Republic (1-4) and capture the bronze medal Saturday in Toronto, Canada.

“It’s one I’m going to remember for a while,” said Damien Wilkins (Indios de Mayagüez, Puerto Rico/ Orlando, Fla.) of the comeback. “That’s what it is about, though. We came out, and we were shooting ourselves in the foot pretty much all game long, just making bone-head play after bone-head play. And then we fought. We just kept fighting.           

“That’s the one thing that I am inspired by with this team — we got a bunch of guys who just didn’t want to quit. We could have packed it in. In that third quarter when we were down 21, we could have just given up, but we didn’t. We kept fighting, and we came out with the win.”

Guard Bobby Brown (Dongguan Leopards, China/Los Angeles, Calif.) led the USA charge with 19 points, Wilkins added 18, Taurean Waller-Prince (Baylor/San Antonio, Texas) had 12 points and team-high seven rebounds, while Ron Baker (Wichita State/Scott City, Kan.) and Denzel Valentine (Michigan State/Lansing, Mich.) each tossed in 11 points.

Playing 14 hours after suffering a heartbreaking overtime loss to host Canada and seeing its gold medal hopes dashed, the U.S. was sluggish and out of sync for the game’s first two-and-a-half quarters as the DominicanRepublic built a 21-point lead and looked as though it was on its way to claiming the bronze medal.

“It was not looking good. We waited until our backs were firmly pinned against the proverbial wall, and then we responded,” said USA and Gonzaga University head coach Mark Few. “Through that whole time, though, Ron Baker was just playing his tail off, and I think that kind of kept us alive.

“And then Bobby (Brown) got going, and Damien (Wilkins) had a couple of big plays, everybody -- Taurean (Waller-Prince) got us going and knocked a couple of balls loose. We just started being way more proactive,” he added. 

Trailing 63-42 with 4:29 left in the third quarter, the U.S. kept fighting and slowly turned momentum around and crept back into the game.  Ultimately outscoring Dominican Republic 45-19 over the final 14:29 of the game, the USA earned the improbable 87-82 win.          

It was an up hill battle for the United States right from the opening tip. 

Trailing 26-15 after the first quarter, the Americans needed a Wilkins 3-pointer with 22 seconds left in the second quarter to only trail 48-35 at halftime.

The third quarter featured the Dominicans sinking four 3s, and the last one pushed their lead to 66-47 with 2:30 left in the third quarter.

Stepping up its defensive pressure and getting into transition, the U.S. got rolling and after outscoring its opponent 12-2 to end the third stanza, only trailed 68-59 heading into the final period.

The reenergized Americans kept up the frantic pace and tallied a 19-7 spurt to help the USA take its first lead of the game, 78-75 with 4:03 left in the contest. The go-ahead points came by way of a hustle play by Wilkins, who beat a Dominican Republic player to a loose ball in the backcourt, went in and scored and was fouled. Converting the free throw, the U.S. took a 78-75 lead.

Dominican Republic appeared to have turned back the USA rally when it scored six-consecutive points to regain control, 81-78, with 2:26 to play.

Prince made his only 3 of the contest to tie the game at 81 with 1:56 left, and Wilkins, the USA’s 35-year-old veteran, grabbed a Brown missed and scored the put back to give the U.S. an 83-81 lead with 1:04 on the clock.

“Coach has been preaching, 'go to the offensive glass,' all tournament long, and he said that is where we can really take advantage of teams. I tried to do that throughout the week. I didn’t get many tonight, but you keep pursuing, keep pursuing, eventually one is going to fall to you, and that’s what happened,” said Wilkins.

Juan Garcia went to the foul line for Dominican Republic and after making one of his two charity tries, the score was 83-82 with 58 seconds remaining.

Brown pushed the U.S. lead to 85-82 with 25.7 seconds to go with a runner, and a game-tying 3-pointer by Dominican Republic was off target. Prince secured the rebound and was fouled with 9.6 seconds to play.  Prince calmly made both free throws to seal the USA’s remarkable 87-82 comeback victory.

“It feels great to me,” said Wilkins about winning the bronze medal. “I said earlier I feel like this is a gold medal for me. People can say what they want, but I had never worn a USA jersey. I had never competed in a tournament like this. I had never had an opportunity to win a medal. So, for me, this means everything.”

In the battle on the boards, the U.S. outrebounded Dominican Republic 35-32, 15 of the U.S. rebounds were offensive and resulted in 19 second chance points.

The USA made a cool 44.1 percent of its shots, and while Dominican Republic shot 48.3 percent for the game, the U.S. defense forced the Dominicans into just 37.0 percent shooting in the second half.

The USA was short-handed in the game as Keith Langford (UNICS Kazan, Russia/Fort Worth, Texas) and Anthony Randolph (Lokomotiv-Kuban, Russia/ Pasadena, Calif.) were injured an unable to play.

Assisting Few with the 2015 U.S. Pan American Men’s Basketball Team was University of Colorado’s Tad Boyle and longtime NBA coach Mike Brown.

Overall, the Americans have now compiled a 90-17 all-time win-loss record and captured eight gold medals, three silver medals and three bronze medals.

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