USA AmeriCup Team Overpowers Panama 97-56 In Opener
Sprinting out to a 27-10 first quarter lead, the USA Men’s AmeriCup Team (1-0) never looked back as it rolled to a dominating 97-56 victory over Panama (0-1) in its opening game of the FIBA AmeriCup 2017 preliminary Group C play in Montevideo, Uruguay, Monday evening.
Four players scored in double digits for the American squad, led by 17 points from forwards Darrun Hilliard and Jonathan Holmes (Canton Charge), while Reggie Williams (Oklahoma City Blue) added 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting from 3-point, and Jameel Warney (Texas Legends) added 10 points.
“Well, we set a better tone today with our starters than we did in our exhibition against the Dominican Republic,” said Jeff Van Gundy, USA AmeriCup and former NBA head coach. “Our defense was good early. There’s a lot to improve on, but not as much time to really do it. So, we just have to gather ourselves. We are playing a true road game tomorrow against Uruguay, and we’re looking forward to it.”
Required to win their four-team preliminary round group in order to advance to the semifinals round in Córdoba, Argentina, the USA will face host Uruguay (1-0) on Tuesday in a 7:30 p.m. (EDT) game that will be aired on ESPNU.
“I think it’s going to take everything, honestly,” said Reggie Williams on what it will take to earn a victory over the USA’s next opponent. “Us, as a team, being on the same page offensively and defensively. They have home court advantage. Obviously, we are here in their city in their country, and they will have the support of their fans and everyone behind them. It’s going to be a tough game, but we just have to stay focused and stay together and do what we do.”
The USA and Panama traded 3s to open the game, and from that point on, the USA defense made scoring very difficult for Panama.
The U.S. held a 7-5 advantage with 7:15 left in the opening stanza and went on a 16-4 run to balloon its lead to 23-9 with 2:10 remaining in the first quarter. Six different USA players contributed points in the run.
Leading 27-10 after completion of the first quarter, the USA was in control 32-16 when it posted a 14-2 offensive onslaught to take total control, 46-18, with 2:34 to play in quarter two.
The Americans led 49-25 at halftime, and after two quarters had limited Panama to 28.1 percent (9-32 FGs) overall shooting and just 3-of-10 from 3-point.
Outscoring Panama 21-13 in the third quarter and 27-18 in the fourth, the USA earned the lopsided 97-56 victory.
“3-point shooting is going to be very important, as well as defense, but that outside shooting will help us offensively create leads and separate ourselves,” said Reggie Williams as the USA on the night made 11-of-32 from beyond the 3-point arc. “Those types of things are backbreakers, when you hit a tough 3 or a clutch 3. We have pretty good shooters, and then we also have guys that can get to the basket, finish and create and set up wide open 3-pointers for our shooters. It’s going to be important. I know FIBA, the European game and down here, there are a lot of good 3-point shooters that compete in these competitions. I think every team will try to shoot 3’s, but we have to be lights out and focused, too.”
Led by a game-high 12 rebounds from Marshall Plumlee and seven boards by Warney, the U.S. won the battle on the glass, outrebounding Panama 46-36.
The USA was credited with 29 assists on 34 baskets, Larry Drew II (Sioux Falls Skyforce) recorded seven assists, Kendall Marshall (Reno Bighorns) handed out six and Xavier Munford (Greensboro Swarm) added five.
“There is an excitement in the locker room. I think we set a good tone for the rest of the competition,” said Plumlee about the USA's victorious showing. “That being said, Panama is a tough team and they definitely highlighted some areas where we could improve. I know coach Van Gundy is going to push us to improve each day, with each repetition, so we’re excited to have this one under our belt and we’re even more excited to take that next step forward.”
Van Gundy is being assisted by current NBA G League Northern Arizona Suns head mentor Ty Ellis and veteran international coach Mo McHone.
The United States will continue its AmeriCup Group C preliminary play facing host Uruguay on Aug. 29 (7:30 p.m. EDT), then conclude preliminary play on Aug. 30 against Dominican Republic (5 p.m. EDT). All of the USA’s AmeriCup games are being broadcast live on ESPNU.
Argentina, as host, and the top finishing teams from AmeriCup Groups A, B and C will advance to Córdoba, Argentina, to play in the Sept. 2 semifinals and the bronze and gold medal games on Sept. 3 (the full FIBA AmeriCup 2017 schedule and results is available to view at usab.com/mens/americup/schedule.aspx).
Mexico (3-0) has already won the Group A play that was held Aug. 25-27 in Medellín, Colombia, to earn a semifinals berth.
In other games Monday, Argentina improved to 2-0 in Group B after edging Canada (0-2) 92-86, while host Uruguay (1-0) got past Dominican Republic (0-1) 66-57. The U.S. Virgin Islands (1-0) will face Venezuela (0-1) in the day’s final contest.
The FIBA AmeriCup 2017, considered the FIBA Americas zone championship, features 12 nations from North America, Central America, the Caribbean and South America.
A USA men’s national team last participated in the FIBA Americas Championship in 2007, when the U.S. rumbled over its opposition in Las Vegas and finished 10-0 to win gold and capture one of the FIBA Americas zone's two qualifying berths for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Overall, USA Basketball officially has fielded teams in eight prior FIBA Americas Championships, winning six gold (2007, 2003, 1999, 1997, 1993 and 1992) and one silver medal (1989), while compiling a 60-10 win-loss record.
Based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA Basketball, chaired by ret. General Martin E. Dempsey, is a nonprofit organization and the national governing body for men’s and women’s basketball in the United States. As the recognized governing body for basketball in the U.S. by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Basketball is responsible for the selection, training and fielding of USA teams that compete in FIBA-sponsored international competitions, as well as for some national competitions, and for the development of youth basketball initiatives that address player development, coach education and safety.
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