USA U18 Men Pull Away From Chile For 70-50 Win, Secure No.1 Seed Into Semifinals
The 2016 USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team (3-0) outscored Chile (1-2) 20-10 in the fourth quarter to turn what had been a tightly contested game into a 70-50 win at the 2016 FIBA Americas U18 Championship on Thursday night in Valdivia, Chile.
As Group B’s No. 1 seed, the USA will take on Brazil (2-1), Group A’s No. 2 seed, at 8: 15 p.m. (EDT) on July 22. The other medal semifinal will include Canada (3-0) against Puerto Rico (2-1) at 6 p.m. (EDT).
The semifinal winners will meet in the gold medal game on July 23, while the semifinal losers will play in the bronze medal game. All of the USA games will be live online at YouTube.com/FIBA.
Additionally, as the top four finishing teams at the 2016 FIBA Americas U18 Championship, the USA, Brazil, Canada and Puerto Rico all earned a berth into the 2017 FIBA U19 World Championship (site and dates TBD).
“First of all, Chile was extremely tough and aggressive tonight,” said USA U18 and University of Texas head coach Shaka Smart. “I thought they played great in front of their home crowd. They played with a lot passion early, and when we had defensive breakdowns, they made us pay by making shots. I thought our guys did a really good job in the second half of playing with more energy and more connectivity on the defensive end. We were able to force more stops.”
In front of a packed house that was in support of the host nation, the USA held Chile to 26.2 percent from the field (17-65 FGs) and just four fastbreak points, while the U.S. offense tallied 26 points in transition and had 20 assists on 27 made baskets.
“We definitely didn’t have our best game, but in front of a hostile crowd like that, they played really well.” said Kevin Huerter (Shenendehowa Central H.S./Clifton Park, N.Y.), who finished with a team-high 14 points, including four 3-pointers during a second-quarter run. “Their crowd really helped them. We faced adversity in the first half. We weren’t making shots. They were in the game with us, we were down at couple of points, but we pulled it out. I think we showed a lot about our team with this win.”
Chile put the first points on the board, which were followed by five points from Markelle Fultz (DeMatha Catholic H.S./Upper Marlboro, Md.) and a score from Matt Coleman III (Oak Hill Academy/Norfolk, Va.), and the USA led 7-2 after 3:01 of play. Chile responded with a 12-0 run, however, and lead 14-7 with 2:59 on the clock. Huerter scored with 17.5 seconds remaining in the first to make cut into Chile’s deficit and make 14-9 after the first 10 minutes.
Chile pushed its lead to seven points, 18-11, in the second quarter before Huerter began to connect from deep to give the USA some momentum. Huerter nailed four 3s during a 14-3 U.S. run that put the USA ahead 25-21 with 4:00 minutes left in the second period. The lead changed hands twice more before the USA headed to the halftime locker room with a 30-27 advantage.
“That was huge, because we were struggling to make shots,” Smart said of Huerter’s shooting. “We were not getting the ball inside as much as we wanted to; they were packing it in. Kevin went in, and he changed the whole complexion of the game. In fact, he changed the game so much that they went to a box-and-one for the rest of the game when he was in, which made it easier for our other guys. He was definitely the MVP on the offensive end tonight.”
The USA started the second half with two steals that lead to fastbreak dunks but Chile came back to tie the game at 36-all with 5:25 on the clock. Jarrett Allen (St. Stephen's Episcopal School/Round Rock, Texas) scored an offensive rebound, Mohamed Bamba (Westtown School/New York, N.Y.) dunked in transition and Fultz finished a drive with a dunk to put the USA in the lead 43-36. After four more points from each team, Coleman ended the quarter with a 3-pointer with 30.2 seconds left, and the USA lead 50-40 headed into the final 10 minutes.
Chile started the fourth with a 3, but the USA held Chile scoreless for the next 4:50 while it put together 10 points from four different scorers to lead 60-43 and finally take control of the game. After a basket from Chile at 4:16, the USA tallied eight unanswered points to take its largest lead of the game, 23 points, when James Banks (La Lumiere School, Ind./Decatur, Ga.) dunked an assist from Coleman to make it 68-45 with 1:15 left. Chile scored twice more and Trae Young (Norman North H.S./Norman, Okla.) made two free throws to give the USA the 70-50 victory.
Fultz had 11 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots; Coleman added 10 points, six rebounds and six assists; and Bamba collected nine rebounds to go with his seven points.
“Our defensive intensity was the difference,” Bamba said. “I think we picked it up to a whole other level and got a lot of dunks, layups and 3s.”
Also today in the USA’s Group B, Puerto Rico (2-1) beat the U.S. Virgin Islands (0-2) 85-61. In Group A, Canada (3-0) beat Brazil (2-1) 74-58, and Argentina (1-2) edged past Dominican Republic (0-3) 79-75.
The bottom two teams from each preliminary round group play out for fifth-eighth places. Meeting in the consolation semifinals will be Argentina and the U.S. Virgin Islands at 1:30 p.m. (EDT) and Chile versus the Dominican Republic at 3:45 p.m. (EDT).
The USA’s assistant coaches are Kevin Ollie from University of Connecticut and Mark Turgeon from University of Maryland.