Team Effort Propels USA U17 Men Past Argentina 109-56, Into Quarterfinals
Thanks to an overall team effort that saw all 12 players score, including seven in double digits, the 2016 USA Basketball Men’s U17 World Championship Team (4-0) never trailed, jumped ahead 31-5 in the first 10:29 of play and earned an eventual 109-56 round of 16 victory against Argentina (0-4) in the FIBA U17 World Championship for Men on Tuesday night in Zaragoza, Spain. The win advances the U.S. squad to the June 30 medal quarterfinals where it will play South Korea (3-1) at 3 pm EDT. All games are being shown live online at YouTube.com/FIBA.
“That’s what we emphasize,” said USA U17 head coach Don Showalter (USA Basketball), on his team’s well-rounded effort. “It’s all about what’s across your chest and USA Basketball, not about ‘me,’ it’s about ‘we.’ Nobody cares about who scores or playing time or anything like that, as long as you come out with the win. The players are really starting to buy into that and when they buy into that, you feel pretty good. I think tonight’s game was an indication of that.”
Also advancing to the quarterfinals were Australia (2-2), Canada (4-0), France (3-1), Lithuania (3-1), host Spain (4-0) and Turkey (3-1). Should the U.S. advance to the medal semifinals, it will play the winner of the France-Lithuania quarterfinal. Paired on the other side of the bracket are Canada-Turkey and Australia-Spain. The semifinals will be played on July 1, and the finals will be on July 3.
Leading the way in the scoring column were Carte'Are Gordon (Webster Groves H.S./St. Louis, Mo.), who was a perfect 6-of-6 from the field, and Collin Sexton (Pebblebrook H.S./Mableton, Ga.) with 14 points apiece. Javonte Smart (Scotlandville H.S./Baton Rouge, La.) added 12 points, Troy Brown (Centennial H.S./Las Vegas, Nev.) and Kevin Knox II (Tampa Catholic H.S./Riverview, Fla.) chipped in 11 apiece, and Markus Howard (Findlay Prep, Nev./Chandler, Ariz.) and Gary Trent Jr. (Apple Valley H.S./Burnsville, Minn.) rounded out the double-digit scorers with 10 points apiece.
“We can go 12 deep, everybody still plays the same, we all play hard,” said Sexton. “We’re very talented, all around. They can’t scout a couple players; they have to pretty much scout the whole team.”
In outrebounding Argentina 66-41, the USA tied its U17 men’s single-game record for caroms, which was set against the Philippines in 2014. Wendell Carter Jr. (Pace Academy/Fairburn, Ga.) led the way off the glass with 10 boards to go with his six points, while Sexton grabbed nine, Austin Wiley (Spain Park H.S./Hoover, Ala.) finished with nine points and eight rebounds and Knox grabbed seven.
“(Rebounding) was one of our focal points going in,” said Showalter. “How dominant can we be on the glass? When you look at our rebounds, Wendell (Carter) was a double rebounder and we had a lot of guys with seven to nine rebounds. Collectively, we had a great rebounding game.”
For the fourth time in as many games, the USA won the opening tip, scored first and never trailed.
Following a Smart bucket 12 seconds into the contest, Argentina knotted the score at 9:22. But the USA, with the help of high-pressure defense and a run-and-gun style of play, went on a 29-3 run that extended to the 8:49 mark in the second quarter to take full command, 31-5.
“We had a talk with coach and he kept telling us that now that we are in the playoffs, this is a different level of play, and we have to play that way,” said Gordon. “We knew that we had to come out hard, because we don’t want to be one of the upsets in this tournament.
“I was feeling pretty confident tonight,” added Gordon, who had eight of his 12 points in the first half. “I just stayed in my role and did what I do.”
In the first quarter the USA’s shots were off – the team hit 39.1 percent (9-23 FGs) in the stanza – but its defense countered by holding Argentina to an icy 14.3 percent (2-14 FGs) from the field, while converting Argentina’s seven turnovers into 13 points.
The North Americans never let up and by halftime the lead ballooned to 59-24 as the USA upped its shooting overall to 44.9 percent (19-43 FGs), while Argentina increased to just 17.2 percent (5-29 FGs).
The USA outscored Argentina 30-18 in the third quarter and 20-14 in the fourth quarter.
“We came out really good today,” said Knox. “We came out energetic. We played really good defense. Overall we played a really good game. Basically when we played really good defense they weren’t really getting as many shots up, but when they were, they weren’t getting very good shots. So, we got a lot of good rebounds and a lot of points off rebounds in the transition. Overall, our defense was really good tonight.”
The USA dominated on both ends of the court and converted Argentina’s 23 turnovers into 34 points, while giving up just 12 points on its 13 miscues. The USA also outscored Argentina 48-16 in the paint, 28-15 on second-chance points and 59-24 points off the bench. The USA’s largest lead of the night was 55 points, 106-51.
In the end, the USA’s shooting improved to 42.5 percent (37-87 FGs), while Argentina finished the night hitting 24.6 percent (16-65 FGs) from the field and just 13.6 percent (3-22 3pt FGs) from 3-point.
In today’s other games, Lithuania 80 defeated Egypt (1-3) 80-65, France finished off Finland (1-3) 60-38, Canada remained undefeated after running past Dominican Republic (0-4) 79-52, Turkey eclipsed Mali (1-3) 77-58, Australia survived a tough battle against Bosnia-Herzegovina (2-2) 75-72, Spain raced past Taiwan (0-4) 112-60, and South Korea held off China (1-3) 75-70.
“They’re just a different team because they rely so much on their 3-points shooting,” said Showalter regarding South Korea. “They don’t really have much of an inside presence at all. It’s going to be a different kind of game for us than anything we’ve played. We’re going to have to be solid defensively. At the same time, our defense is going to have to lead to some easy offensive baskets and we’re going to have to keep them running up and down the court. We want to get them to go to their bench a little bit.”
Assisting Showalter and the U17 team are prep head coaches Mike Jones (DeMatha Catholic H.S., Md.) and Miles Simon (California Supreme AAU).
Athletes eligible for this team must be 17 years old or younger (born on or after 1/1/99) and U.S. citizens.
FIBA U17 World Championship for Men
First held in 2010, the FIBA U17 World Championship features the world’s top 17-year-old and younger players. FIBA currently holds U17 World Championships every two years. Under the direction of Showalter, the USA earned the gold medal in the first three editions, compiling a perfect 23-0 record overall.
In the inaugural (2010) FIBA U17 World Championship for Men, the USA captured gold with a perfect 8-0 record and Bradley Beal was tabbed MVP. In 2012, Jahlil Okafor earned MVP honors and was joined on the all-tournament team by Justise Winslow as the U.S. again captured gold. Most recently the U.S. made it three-straight golds as Malik Newman earned tournament MVP honors and Diamond Stone listed on the all-tournament team.