Scrimmage Offers USA AmeriCup Team A Taste Of International Competition
The 12 USA AmeriCup players and the coaching staff led by head coach Jeff Van Gundy, got their first taste of international play when the U.S. scrimmaged against the Dominican Republic National Team Saturday evening in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Taking the lead for good early in the second quarter, the USA rolled to a 97-73 victory in the friendly game.
Falling behind 15-10, the Americans found their stride and behind baskets from Larry Drew II, Xavier Munford and Jameel Warney, closed out the opening quarter with a 6-0 run to take a 16-15 lead.
The USA dominated the first 5:06 of the second quarter, outscoring the Dominicans 16-5 to take control of the game 35-20.
The U.S. led 43-35 at halftime, and the Dominican Republic cut the deficit to six points, 43-37, to start the third, but the U.S. mounted another major run, outscoring Dominican Republic 17-6 to open a 60-41 lead with 3:27 to play in the third quarter.
From there, the USA’s lead never dipped into single digits as the U.S. marched on to the 97-73 win.
All 12 USA players scored and the U.S. offensive effort was led by Warney, who compiled 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field, while also grabbing a game-high eight rebounds. Hearn added 15 points to the cause, while Darrun Hilliard and C.J. Williams tossed in 10 points each.
“We were very fortunate to have this scrimmage set up. We got to see what we need to work on in the next 24 hours to get ready for Panama,” said USA mentor Van Gundy. “There are a lot of things we need to correct and we’re thankful for the opportunity to play that exhibition game because it is a great evaluation tool.”
The USA shot well, making 33-of-60 (.550 percent) from the floor for the game, and 13-of-23 from 3-point (.565 percent). Defensively, the U.S. limited the Dominican Republic to 35.2 percent (19-54 FGs) shooting from the field and just 25.0 percent (6-24 3pt FGs) from 3-point.
However, the Americans were whistled for 29 fouls which resulted in the Dominican Republic shooting 30-of-42 from the foul line.
The USA committed 18 turnovers and forced the Dominicans into 15 turnovers.
“I felt like we started off kind of slow, but we brought some energy when the second unit came in and then we sustained that for the rest of the game,” said USA guard Hearn. “I thought we did pretty well on defense, I’m sure coach is going to point out some things we didn’t do well in film tomorrow, but I really felt we used our athleticism, got in passing lanes, and as the game went on we kind of dictated the tempo.”
In coach Van Gundy's eyes, there's plenty to work on.
“The only thing you can point to that we did well was we shot the ball well from 3. There are many things that go into that, obviously we shot it well, we have good shooters, I think we were unselfish, but that also could cover up a lot of poor things that we did if we allow it to. We fouled far too much, we turned it over way too much, and so those are usually things if you don’t do well you get beat.
Getting A Tase Of International Play
Opening its training camp on Aug. 17, the scrimmage was a welcome opportunity for the U.S. players to go against someone other than themselves.
“It was great. It’s been a long training camp for the USA squad, so we were excited to finally go after someone else as a team," said Warney. "It was fun, we had a lot of positives, but also a lot negatives, so we have to get back after it tomorrow and get ready for the tournament."
Hearn echoed USA teammate Warney’s sentiment, stating, “Oh man, it felt great. Generally during training camp or in practice you kind of get tired of playing each other. You know how each other plays, and you know that at the end of the day you’re not playing each other, you’re banding together to go against an opponent and we’re doing that on the international stage. To get out there and scrimmage, get a feel for how international play is going to work, I think this will really help us going forward.”
Van Gundy, too, thought the scrimmage was an overall valuable experience.
“I’m not sure our players believed exactly what they were in for from a contact standpoint and how different the game is. I think they now have a better understanding of how the FIBA game is played, and now we have to do a much better job with our poise against the contact.”
What Jet Lag?
Leaving Houston for Buenos Aires, Argentina, Thursday evening, and flying for nine hours and roughly forty-five minutes, or just over 5000 miles, the USA AmeriCup Team enjoyed a stopover Friday in the Argentine capital. Enjoying lunch in the city and stretching their legs, the team moved on to Buenos Aires domestic airport and after a short delay, boarded its 45-minute flight from Buenos Aires to Montevideo, Uruguay.
“I felt great,” said Warney of the scrimmage. “We got some conditioning work in yesterday once we got in so it kind of knocked out the jet lag with us yesterday. We had a good workout this morning, I felt great and I think the whole team felt great. We scored a lot of points today, got our legs under us, so we had a lot of positives and we can only go up from here.”
What Are The Keys For This Team To Be Successful?
“Well if you are a small team like us, we’re going to have to shoot it well and also defend and pass. Defend and pass, if you do those two things you’re going to give yourself a chance. I think those are absolutely the keys for what we’re doing,” said Van Gundy.
“Just sticking together,” offered Warney. “There’s going to adversity during this tournament so we have to stick together, we’ve got to be tough and we just can’t get bullied. After every game you have to be up one point or more and that’s our goal so we’re going to try and do that.”
FIBA AmeriCup 2017
Starting Monday, the USA will play its three Group C preliminary round games in Montevideo. The United States opens preliminary play on Aug. 28 facing Panama (5 p.m. EDT), then meet host Uruguay on Aug. 29 (7:30 p.m. EDT) and conclude preliminary play on Aug. 30 against Dominican Republic (5 p.m. EDT).
In addition to the USA, Uruguay, Dominican Republic and Panama in Group C, Group A plays Aug. 25-27 in Medellín, Colombia, and includes the host country Colombia, as well as Brazil, Mexico and Puerto Rico; while Group B will compete Aug. 27-29 in Bahía Blanca, Argentina, and will consist of host country Argentina, as well as Canada, U.S. Virgin Islands and Venezuela.
Argentina, as host, and the top finishing teams from Group A, Group B and Group 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 is available to view at (usab.com/mens/americup/schedule.aspx).
The FIBA AmeriCup 2017, considered the FIBA Americas zone championship, features 12 nations from North America, Central America, the Caribbean and South America.