USA U18 Men Open FIBA Americas U18 Championship With 103-70 Win Over Puerto Rico
The 2016 USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team’s (1-0) depth and athleticism was on display in its 103-70 win over Puerto Rico (0-1) in the first game of the FIBA Americas U18 Championship on Tuesday afternoon in Valdivia, Chile.
Five U.S. players reached double-digit scoring, and the USA recorded 25 assists and 44 fast-break points while forcing Puerto Rico into 26 turnovers.
“I thought our guys played with really good energy,” said USA U18 and University of Texas head coach Shaka Smart. “We had typical first-game jitters – a lot of execution mistakes and some defensive break downs from a lack of communication, but the energy was really good. And I thought as the game went on, our guys really settled in and played together.”
Michael Porter Jr. (Father Tolton Catholic H.S./Columbia, Mo.) finished with 20 points; Jarrett Allen (St. Stephen's Episcopal School/Round Rock, Texas) had 18 points and eight rebounds; Mohamed Bamba (Westtown School/New York, N.Y.) and Markelle Fultz (DeMatha Catholic H.S./Upper Marlboro, Md.) each contributed 14 points; and Matt Coleman III (Oak Hill Academy/Norfolk, Va.) tallied 10 points.
“I thought we played pretty good in our first game,” said Porter Jr. “There were a lot of areas for improvement, but I thought we played hard.”
The score was tied three times to start the game before the USA’s full-court pressure began to disrupt Puerto Rico’s offense, and after two made free throws from Bamba with 5:05 on the clock, the USA led 10-7. From there, the USA gave up just two more baskets while its offense raced to 10 points to lead 20-11 after the first 10 minutes. The USA collected nine steals and forced Puerto Rico into 13 turnovers in the first quarter alone.
With the USA leading 33-22 with 4:49 remaining in the second period, the USA strung together an 11-0 run and held Puerto Rico scoreless for 3:40. Puerto Rico scored at 1:09 to end the streak and then made two free throws, but Allen scored with 4.3 second remaining to make it 46-26 at halftime.
Puerto Rico managed the press better in the second quarter, but it could not stop the USA’s transition offense, which scored 16 of its 26 point in the period on the fast break.
“Our defense was amazing,” said Paul ‘P.J.’ Washington (Findlay Prep, Nev./Frisco, Texas), who collected 10 rebounds. “When we play together on defense, good things happen. We create offense, we get 3s, we get layups and we get dunks.”
Puerto Rico twice came within 15 points of the USA in the first five minutes of the third quarter, but with the USA leading 55-40 with 6:56 on the clock the USA scored six unanswered points, including four from Bamba, and was back on top 61-40 with 5:42 on the clock. Another U.S. run, this time a 10-0 spurt, gave the USA a 73-45 lead with 2:07 remaining in the quarter. Puerto Rico then tallied seven points to the USA’s six to head into the fourth quarter with the USA ahead 79-52.
The USA continued to push the pace and took its largest lead of 37 points when Quade Green (Newmann-Goretti H.S./Philadelphia, Pa.) made two free throws to bring the score to 99-62 with 1:46 left in the game. After an 8-0 run by Puerto Rico, the USA broke into triple digits with an alley-oop dunk from Green to James Banks (La Lumiere School, Ind./Decatur, Ga.), which was followed by a score from Kevin Huerter (Shenendehowa Central H.S./Clifton Park, N.Y.) to give the USA the 103-70 win.
“Our second half, we started out slow, but then we picked up the energy,” said Trae Young (Norman North H.S./Norman, Okla.), who dished out five assists. “Coach had a great game plan from the beginning, and it all started on the defensive end. We listened, and we executed and we came out with the win.”
Seventy-four of the USA’s points were scored in the paint and 38 came from non-starters.
The USA will continue preliminary play against the U.S. Virgin Islands at 3:45 (EDT) on July 20 and versus host Chile at 8:15 p.m. (EDT) on July 21. All of the USA games will be live online at YouTube.com/FIBA.
Also today, in the USA’s Group B, Chile will take on the U.S. Virgin Islands at 8:15 p.m. (EDT), while in Group A, Argentina will face Canada at 3:45 p.m. (EDT), and Brazil will play Dominican Republic at 6 p.m. (EDT).
The top two finishing teams from each group advance to the July 22 semifinals, while the bottom two teams will play out for fifth-eighth places. On July 23, the semifinal winners will meet in the gold medal game, and the semifinal losers will play in the bronze medal game.
The USA’s assistant coaches are Kevin Ollie from University of Connecticut and Mark Turgeon from University of Maryland.