USA Rolls Past Uruguay 114-57 in World Cup Qualifying Play
With USA Men’s National Team head coach Gregg Popovich in attendance, USA Men’s World Cup Qualifying Team (6-1) dominated Uruguay (4-3) 114-57 to open second-round play at the COX Pavilion in Las Vegas on Friday.
As the starting floor general for USA, Frank Mason (Sacramento Kings) led USA with 16 points and eight assists. Playing cool, calm, and collective, Mason never forced the issue and kept Uruguay on their heels whenever he was on the court. Additionally, Mason broke the World Cup Qualifiers records of eight assists and shooting seven of eight from the field.
“It was a great experience for me,” Mason reflects. “We got the win, which is the most important thing. We got a lot of things that we still need to improve on. Thank coach Van Gundy for doing a great job of getting us ready for the next game.”
Joaquin Rodriguez led Uruguay with 11 points with a pedestrian box score for the rest of the team. Uruguay as a team shot a meager 18-of-55 from the field, and a staggering 4-of-22 from the perimeter.
Chasson Randle (Capital City Go-Go) tallied 15 points on three of five from 3 in 23 minutes. Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs) contributed 14 points in front of Popovich and Spurs assistant coach Ime Udoka. Dwayne Bacon (Charlotte Hornets) and Henry Ellenson (Detroit Pistons) both chipped in 10 points each.
USA played superb defense from the start, forcing 18 turnovers, compared to only 8 for the red, white, and blue.
Sharing the ball was a constant theme throughout, for the home team. USA dished out 30 assists, while Uruguay finished with 12. USA mentor Jeff Van Gundy was pleased with how the team played as a unit, instead of trying to pile up individual numbers.
“I thought we moved the ball well. I thought Frank [Mason] got into the teeth of the defense exceptionally well. And we shared it. FIBA is not about putting up numbers, this is about getting connected to one another in a short period of time and enjoying the competition, forming a brotherhood. And I think if you can do that, you’ll share the ball, you’ll help on defense, and you’ll do all those things to help you win.”
Prior to the game, coach Van Gundy had three main points for his team to focus on.
“I would say for us it always starts with us with three things – defense, rebounding and then being able to take our defense and rebounding and turn it into transition points.”
As if foreshadowing the rest of the night, the first play commenced with two offensive rebounds for USA, followed by a Mason put-back to open the game.
USA outrebounded Uruguay 45 to 27, and had a 24-6 edge in points generated from turnovers. Moreover, USA finished with a commanding 18-2 lead on fast break points.
The game was never really close. USA jumped out to a 22-7 lead with two minutes to go in the first quarter. Randle capped the first quarter with a 3 to push the score to 28-8. With the score 56-24 at halftime, the second half was essentially for USA to work on their sets, and for Uruguay to play for pride.
Uruguay came in with the gameplan to push the pace whenever they had the opportunity. But to no avail, USA was bigger, stronger, faster both physically and mentally, and Uruguay never stood a chance.
To the credit of Uruguay and their fans, the team played hard for all 40 minutes and the fans were still rowdy whenever they scored. With under a minute left in regulation, Uruguay was still exerting full court pressure on defense.
Van Gundy stressed multiple times how Uruguay didn’t play their best guys for this game because of their harsh travel schedule.
“So much of it was they were undermanned too. We did a lot of good things, and they were undermanned because they chose to rest their players back home.”
USA next plays in Panama City versus Panama to close out September action on September 17. The men’s national team last played Panama in the 2017 AmeriCup action, and won 97-56 in 2017 AmeriCup play.
Coach Van Gundy was already thinking about their next game against Panama, and mentioned how vital it was for Mason to set the tempo again for the team.
“I was very proud of my guys, they played hard, defensively, and again for guys like Frank, he’s got a bulldog mentality. His matchup down in Panama is absolutely critical for our chance to win against Trevor Gaskins, who is an outstanding player for Mississippi. He’s been very good overseas, and for his qualifying team.”
With how stellar, the game turned out for USA, it would probably be nitpicking to find areas for improvement. Van Gundy was not shy in addressing what the team needed to work on.
“Well, there’s no doubt [on improvements], we had some pick and roll coverage breakdowns that we have to correct, because Panama is a pick and roll team. As I mentioned, Trevor Gaskins is an outstanding pick and roll player. Their big men in Panama are quick and active. Their pick and roll defense is very good, so there’s a number of things we have to do better, but I feel good with our group. It’s going to be a knife fight down there, it’s hard to prepare guys for what the intensity is on the road in a FIBA National team game, when you wear USA across your chest.”
In other Group E second-round games on Friday, Puerto Rico (5-2) edged Panama (3-4) 82-73, while Argentina (6-1) held off Mexico (3-4) 78-74.
At the conclusion of the Americas second-round games, seven teams will qualify out of the zone for the 2019 FIBA World Cup. The top three finishing teams of Group E and Group F, as well as the top rated fourth placed team between Group E and Group F.
With FIBA’s new system, a total of 32 teams will be competing in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup competition, which will be held August 31 to September 15 in China. If USA qualifies, the men’s National team will be competing in this tournament with eyes on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The new FIBA system changed its World Cup qualifying process, holding most of the qualifying games during the middle of the NBA season, hence prohibiting elite players from around the world from competing in the qualifiers.
At the conclusion of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019, seven teams will qualify for the 2020 Olympics. Host country, Japan, automatically qualified, and the final four nations will qualify through four FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments that will be held in 2020.