Red-Hot Shooting Helps USA Earn Second World Cup Qualifying Win 91-55 Versus Mexico
Starting the game with six-straight 3-pointers, the USA Basketball Men’s World Cup Qualifying Team (2-0) relied on a balanced scoring attack to defeat Mexico (1-1) 91-55 on Sunday evening at the Greensboro Coliseum Fieldhouse in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Four U.S. players finished with 14 points each, including Markel Brown (Oklahoma City Blue), Jonathan Holmes (Maine Red Claws), Xavier Munford (Wisconsin Herd) and Travis Wear (South Bay Lakers), who added 10 rebounds to finish with a double-double.
“I was very, very proud of our team,” said USA head coach Jeff Van Gundy. “Nine days together, they worked hard. It’s really hard to put a group together that quickly unless players are selfless, and we had a bunch of selfless guys who sacrificed not only their time, but participating in the G League, to represent their country. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
The USA shot a solid 50.8 percent (33-65 FGs) from the field, but it was even better from 3-point, where it was 54.2 percent (13-24 3pt FGs). Despite having a short training window in which to develop team chemistry, the USA also tallied 21 assists, including seven from Donald Sloan (Texas Legends).
The U.S. offense was not the only highlight, however. It’s defense also was impressive, limiting Mexico to 31.1 percent (19-61 FGs) from the field and converting 18 turnovers into 21 points.
“We came out and executed our game plan,” Wear said. “We hit them first right off the bat. We let them go on a little run at the end of the (first) half. But, we came back and executed down the stretch and got it done.”
Overall in the first period, the USA sank seven 3-pointers, highlighted by 3-of-3 shooting from beyond the arc by Holmes, and the U.S. ended the quarter with a 25-12 lead.
After the USA pushed its advantage to 32-15 just 3:20 into the second period, Mexico fought back with a 12-0 run that closed the gap to just five points 32-27. Despite outscoring the USA 17-15 in the quarter, that was as close as Mexico would get for the remainder of the game. An offensive rebound and score from Jameel Warney (Texas Legends) ended Mexico’s run, and the USA closed the first half by outscoring it opponent 8-2 to lead 40-29 at halftime.
The second half began with a fast break score by Brown off an assist from Sloan, and the USA was on its way to a 32-point third quarter, while allowing Mexico just 18 points to lead 72-47 after three periods.
“I think we played great collectively as a group,” Brown said. “Everybody came out there and played their part well, whether rebounding the ball, playing defense, passing it or scoring it.”
The USA reached its largest lead of the game, 39 points, when local favorite and University of North Carolina alumni Kennedy Meeks (Raptors 905) made two free throws with 57.2 seconds remaining in the game. Mexico tallied just eight points to the USA’s 19 in the fourth, and Sloan dribbled out the clock on the USA’s final possession for a 91-55 victory.
Larry Drew II (Sioux Falls Skyforce) missed a second-straight game due to a strained right hamstring, while Reggie Hearn (Reno Bighorns) was limited to 13 minutes after suffering a sprained right ankle during the second quarter.
The win over Mexico was the USA’s second and final game of the first window of competition in the FIBA World Cup Qualifying games, which are an entirely new process not only for the USA, but for the rest of the world, too.
The qualifiers will be used to determine the nations that will play in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. The second, first-round competition window Feb. 22-26, 2018, will see the USA host (site TBA) home games against Cuba (Feb. 23) and Puerto Rico (Feb. 26). Group C first-round play will conclude on the road for the red, white and blue, but not until June 28 and July 1 against Mexico and Cuba. For more information on the new World Cup Qualifying process, check out our crash course here: WCQ Crash Course.