USA Takes Down Mexico 88-67 in Inaugural NBA G League International Challenge
With just two practices under its belt, the USA World Cup Qualifying Team, powered by 15-of-28 shooting from beyond the 3 point arc, took down the Mexico National Team 88-67 Sunday afternoon in the inaugural NBA G League International Challenge at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The game marked the first-ever international exhibition in NBA All-Star history.
All 12 members of USA team that captured the NBA G League International Challenge win will continue training in preparation of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers which see the USA squad face Cuba on Feb. 23 and Puerto Rico on Feb. 26 in Santa Cruz, Calif. The USA currently owns a 2-0 record and sits atop of the FIBA Americas World Cup Qualifying first-round Group C standings after winning both of its first-window games in November.
“This was probably what would be expected of a group that has been together two days, a lot of mistakes. But we have good players and they have the right intentions and hopefully we’ll get better every day,” said USA head coach Jeff Van Gundy, who is being assisted by Mo McHone and John Thompson III.
In a game in which every USA player scored, the Americans were led to the win by Aaron Harrison (Reno Bighorns) and Xavier Silas (Northern Arizona Suns), who each tallied 13 points and combined to hit 6-of-9 3 pointers. Further aiding the USA effort with 10 points each were Rodney Purvis (Lakeland Magic) and Marcus Thornton (Canton Charge).
Mexico opened the contest with a 3 pointer, and with 5:18 left in first quarter led 12-7.
But behind five 3 pointers and points from five different USA team members, the U.S. went on a 20-2 romp to end the quarter and head into the second period leading 27-14.
Mexico posted a 16-8 scoring run to start the second period and cut the USA advantage to five, 35-30, with 4:54 remaining before halftime.
But the USA regrouped and finished off the first half by outscoring Mexico 15-7 to take control 50-37 at halftime.
Leading by 10, 59-49, with 4:34 left in the third quarter, the quarter closed with the USA scoring the final eight points to push its lead to 67-49.
Mexico fought back once more and cut the deficit to 76-65 with 5:40 to play in the game. Purvis helped turned momentum back around for the USA with a pair of free throws, Thornton added a basket and Harrison connected on a 3 and the USA sailed in for the 88-67 victory.
For the game, the USA shot 53.2 percent from the field, an even hotter 53.6 percent from 3 point.
“If you can make 15 3s in a FIBA game, you’ve done a great job shooting the ball but you also know that can ebb and flow and so you have to do some other things a little bit better in case you have one of those nights where you don’t shoot it great,” added Van Gundy.
Another bright note for the U.S. was their 22 assists on their made 33 shots. Terrence Jones (Santa Cruz Warriors) and David Stockton (Reno Bighorns) each dished off four assists as 10 USA players were credited with at least one assist.
Led by six rebounds from Jones and five boards from Rashawn Thomas (Oklahoma City Blue) and Taylor Braun (Salt Lake City Stars), the USA owned a 35-21 advantage on the glass.
Mexico’s Luke Martinez poured in a game-high 22 points.
“For the group, I think it’s a great thing what the NBA and the G League are doing to try and promote the G League player. The G League player is a unique player who is fighting to either get back into the NBA or to get there for the very first time and their stories are important, their stories are beneficial. I just admire their grit and perseverance,” added Van Gundy.