USA Men Open World Cup Qualifying With 85-78 Win Over Puerto Rico
Looking to its returning AmeriCup gold medalists, the USA (1-0) earned an 85-78 victory over Puerto Rico (0-1) in Thursday night’s opening game of FIBA World Cup Qualifying first-round play at the University of Central Florida’s CFE Arena in Orlando.
In the win, the USA received a double-double of 17 points and a game-high 11 rebounds from 2017 AmeriCup MVP Jameel Warney (Texas Legends) and 17 points and eight rebounds from USA AmeriCup gold medalist Reggie Hearn (Reno Bighorns).
The USA will play its second first-round game during the November qualifying window against Mexico (1-0) on Sunday, Nov. 26 (5 p.m. EST) at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex Fieldhouse in Greensboro, home of the Charlotte Hornets NBA G League affiliate Greensboro Swarm. Mexico recorded a 72-66 win over Cuba (0-1) Thursday night.
Tickets for the Nov. 26 USA-Mexico game at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex Fieldhouse are available at www.ticketmaster.com, the Greensboro Coliseum box office and Ticketmaster’s charge-by-phone system at 1-800-745-3000. For additional ticket information visit greensboro.gleague.nba.com/usa/ or call 336-907-3600.
“I was really proud of our guys. For those of our players that have played in a FIBA game, I think (they) knew what to expect, but those that had not played in a FIBA game, it was harder for them initially to adapt and adjust,” said USA head coach Jeff Van Gundy. “We got hit with haymakers early, and I was really proud of our guys. We played well down the stretch and we made big time plays. I’m really proud of them, happy for them.”
Puerto Rico came out firing and nailed six 3-pointers in the game’s first 7:12 to grab control 18-10. USA center Travis Wear (South Bay Lakers) scored five consecutive points and Warney scored off of an offensive rebound to help reduce the deficit, and after the first 10 minutes the USA trailed 23-17.
Puerto Rico continued to counter each U.S. rally and with 4:03 left in the second quarter, Puerto Rico held a 33-29 lead.
Behind five points from Xavier Munford (Wisconsin Herd), another AmeriCup returner, the USA outscored Puerto Rico 9-2 to take its first lead, 38-35. However, the lead was short lived as Puerto Rico scored the first half’s final four points to take a 39-38 lead at halftime.
“We let them off the hook in the first half by giving them easy shots, letting them on the glass and out on the break,” said Warney. “We stopped turning the ball over and started getting rebounds. We started playing our game and that’s what happened in the second half.”
The teams traded baskets in the third quarter and Puerto Rico pushed its advantage to 57-51 with 2:51 left in the third quarter.
Getting six points from Munford, the U.S. ripped off 10 straight points to regain the lead 61-57 with 50 seconds left in the third.
The U.S. took a 61-58 lead into the game’s final 10 minutes, but Puerto Rico battled back and evened the score 63-63.
Semaj Christon (free agent) and Munford each scored five points in a 10-2 USA run that lifted the red, white and blue to a 73-65 lead with 5:21 left in the game.
Puerto Rico never again got closer than four points as the USA held-off Puerto Rico for the 85-78 win.
In addition to Hearn and Warney scoring 17 each, the USA was aided by Munford’s 12 points and Markel Brown (Oklahoma City Blue) added 10 points.
“It was a great game,” said Hearn. “We were just happy to come out with the victory. Coach did a great job of coaching us. A lot of guys stepped up in the second half, and we were happy to get the victory. We’re going to go back to the hotel and eat some turkey.”
The USA bench outscored Puerto Rico’s bench 49-28, and the USA dominated the glass and outrebounded Puerto Rico 44-26, including 17 offensive boards.
The USA shot 49.2 percent from the field and made 10-of-21 from 3-point. Puerto Rico made 45.2 percent from the floor and shot 12-of-25 from 3.
Larry Drew II (Sioux Falls Skyforce) did not play due to a strained right hamstring.
Van Gundy is being assisted by Mo McHone and John Thompson III.
Following the November games, additional first-round World Cup Qualifying game windows will be held Feb. 22-26, 2018 and June 28-July 2, 2018.
The USA is slated to host Cuba on Feb. 23, 2018 (site and time TBD) and host Puerto Rico on Feb. 26, 2018 (site and time TBD).
In the third and final first-round window, the USA will at Mexico on June 28, 2018, and will conclude its first-round games on July 1 at Cuba.
After completion of the first round, the top three teams in each of the four, first-round groups advance to the second round. The top three finishers from Group A and Group C will form Group E, while the top three finishers from Group B and Group D will form Group F. The three second-round windows of competition will take place Sept. 13-17, 2018; Nov. 29-Dec. 3, 2018; and Feb. 21-25, 2019.
Following completion of the Americas second-round games, seven teams will qualify out of the zone for the 2019 FIBA World Cup, including the top three finishing teams from second-round Group E and Group F, and the best fourth placed team between Group E and Group F.
The FIBA World Cup Qualifying games are being used to qualify 31 of the 32 nations that will compete in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. China automatically qualified as the host nation of the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
Five teams will qualify from Africa, seven teams from the Americas, seven teams from Asia (which now includes Oceania) and 12 European teams will qualify.
The FIBA World Cup for Men 2019 will be held Aug. 31-Sept. 15 in China.
The current two-time defending World Cup champion USA men have participated in 17 FIBA World Cups and have collected 12 medals - 5 gold medals (1954, 1986, 1994, 2010 and 2014), 3 silver medals (1950, 1959 and 1982) and 4 bronze medals (1974, 1990, 1998 and 2006). USA teams own an overall record of 123-27.
Results from the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 will qualify seven teams for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Additionally, Olympic host, Japan, automatically qualified, and the final four nations will qualify through four FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments that will be held in 2020 in advance of the Olympics.