USA U16 Men Open With 110-69 Win Over Puerto Rico
FORMOSA, Argentina (June 14, 2017) – Behind team-highs of 17 points and nine rebounds from Vern Carey Jr. (University School/Southwest Ranches, Fla.), the 2017 USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team (1-0) opened play at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship with a 110-69 victory over Puerto Rico (0-1) on Wednesday night in Formosa, Argentina.
All 12 members of the U.S. squad put points on the board, with five scoring in double digits. In addition to Carey, the red, white and blue’s offensive outburst was aided by 16 points and four assists from R.J. Hampton (Little Elm H.S./Little Elm, Texas); and Zion Harmon (Bowling Green H.S./Bowling Green, Ky.), Jalen Suggs (Minnehaha Academy H.S./St. Paul, Minn.) and James Wiseman (The Ensworth School/Nashville, Tenn.) notched 11 points apiece.
The USA continues play June 15 against Dominican Republic (0-1) at 5:45 p.m. (all times EDT) and caps pool play with a June 16 clash against Mexico (1-0) at 1:15 p.m. All games will be streamed live online at YouTube.com/FIBA and Facebook.com/usabasketball.
“The first game is always interesting because our guys are nervous,” said USA U16 National Team head coach Don Showalter. “Puerto Rico has played together for a while; they won the CentroBasket tournament to get here, so they’ve played together and you could tell. Their guards did a nice job. In the first half, we tried to make the ‘hero’ play where we were trying to throw lobs and had too many turnovers. Then, when we really settled down in the second half, we played the game the way it should be played.”
“We started off a little slow in the first half,” said Suggs. “But as the game went on we started to pick it up and come together as a team. I thought we got a good win.”
After opening with a 5-0 spurt and jumping out to a 24-11 lead at the end of the first quarter, the USA continued to expand its lead in the opening minutes of the second quarter and took a 34-16 lead at 7:03 in the period.
Puerto Rico’s zone defense, however, stymied the U.S. offensive push. The islanders forced six turnovers and outscored the USA squad 19-14 to shrink the gap to 48-35 at the halftime buzzer.
“They were sharing the ball,” said Hampton, who went 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. “They were beating us off the dribble. We have to get better and stay in front of our man. They were doing a really good job of boxing out and getting loose balls. We have to contain those loose balls and win those 50-50 balls.”
The U.S. came out of the locker room with renewed energy and managed to expand its lead to 19 points, 61-42, at 5:32 in the third quarter. Puerto Rico answered with a drive to the hoop 10 seconds later to bring it to within 17 points. But that was as close as Puerto Rico would get. Receiving points from three different players, the USA hit a 9-0 scoring spurt to put the game virtually out of reach, 70-44, with 3:35 still to play in the third quarter.
“He talked to us about our turnovers (at halftime),” said Carey. “He also talked to us about playing together more, sharing the ball, because we were kind of being selfish in the first half.”
From there, the United States held the islanders at bay, closing out the third period up 79-53 and winning the fourth period 31-16 for the final score.
“I think our energy dropped off,” said Suggs of the USA’s second quarter lapse. “People weren’t playing very hard. Our defense really dropped off. We have to work on that going forward. We have to keep our energy up the whole game.”
“We came out in the second half as a much better defensive team,” said Showalter. “We made some simple plays, made the good passes, hit the good shots. The game is not hard unless you make it hard. We made it hard the second quarter, but we changed that around in the third and fourth quarter. We went from a 13-point lead at halftime to a 41-point game in the end.”
The USA scored 49 points off of 30 Puerto Rican turnovers, but coughed up 19 points on its 22 turnovers. Owning a 52-34 advantage on the glass, the U.S. outscored its opponents 58-34 in the paint, 28-7 on second-chance points, 17-9 on the fast break and its bench held a 70-29 advantage over Puerto Rico’s. Additionally, the USA held Puerto Rico to 37.9 percent (25-66 FGs) shooting from the field, while hitting 51.9 percent (40-77 FGs) of its attempts from the floor.
In the other Group B game today, Mexico (1-0) defeated Dominican Republic (0-1) 86-45. In Group A, Paraguay (1-0) downed Venezuela (0-1) 70-64 and Canada plays host Argentina in the final game of the night.
The top four finishing teams not including Argentina will qualify for the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup for Men. Argentina has earned a bid to host the 2018 U17 World Cup and therefore earned an automatic berth to next year’s U17 World Cup.
USA Basketball has claimed the gold medal in all four editions of the biennial event, which was first held in 2009, and under the direction of Showalter, the USA is now 21-0 in FIBA Americas U16 Championship action.
Showalter is being assisted on the sideline by Scott Fitch (Fairport H.S., N.Y.) and Stan Waterman (Sanford School, Del.).
As of March 1, 2017, 13 of the 48 former USA U16 National Team members were under contract in the NBA, four were competing professionally in international leagues, 20 were competing in the NCAA and 11 were still in high school.
|2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship|
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