USA Falls to Argentina 80-63 in FIBA World Cup Qualifying Action
Despite starting the game by scoring the first 12 points and jumping out to a 12-0 lead, the USA Basketball Men’s World Cup Qualifying Team (7-2) was unable to sustain its scoring and fell to Argentina (8-1) 80-63 on Thursday night in front of passionate, at-capacity home crowd in La Rioja, Argentina.
The win earned Argentina sole possession of first place of the FIBA Americas World Cup Qualifying second round Group E, and the USA now sits in second place with three games remaining.
The USA will finish off play in the second round, second window by facing Uruguay (5-3) at 6 p.m. EST on Sunday, Dec. 2, in Montevideo, Uruguay (ESPN+).
“Argentina is a tremendous team, and after the first five minutes they kicked our butts,” said USA head coach Jeff Van Gundy. “And, give them all the credit, they played a terrific game on both ends of the floor.
“We had a rough night all around. I don’t think there were a lot of positives for us in this game, and so much of sport is about when you get your butt kicked how you respond. We’re together three more days, we get another chance on Sunday (versus Uruguay), and hopefully we play much better,” added Van Gundy.
The USA held Argentina scoreless for more than four minutes to start the game, and behind points supplied by four different U.S. players, including back-to-back 3-pointers to open the game from Julian Washburn (Austin Spurs) and Travis Trice (Wisconsin Herd), the USA jumped out to a 12-0 lead with 4:47 left in the opening quarter.
But, Argentina got its offense on track and fought its way to within three points by the end of the first quarter, and the USA led 16-13 after the first 10 minutes.
The USA held onto its lead until the final minute of the second quarter and trailed at halftime, 35-32, after Argentina scored the first half’s final three points from the foul line.
At the midway point, the USA was shooting just 31.7 percent from the field (13-41 FGs) and had made just 6-of-23 3-pointers. Argentina, after its frigid start, was shooting 41.2 percent from the field (14-34 FGs) at the intermission.
Washburn opened the third quarter with a U.S. basket to cut Argentina’s lead to 35-34, but Argentina responded with an 8-0 run to pull ahead 43-34. The Americans trailed 48-40 with 2:41 left in the third, and Argentina capped the quarter with a 10-0 run that resulted in the USA being outscored 23-8 in the third period.
Argentina carried a 58-40 lead into the game’s final 10 minutes, and although the U.S. cut the deficit to 63-50 after a Scotty Hopson (Oklahoma City Blue) basket with 6:11 to play, Argentina turned back the rally with six consecutive points and sailed on for the 80-63 win.
“We just didn’t really execute, and we didn’t hit shots,” said USA guard Trice. “You have to give them credit, they came out with a lot of energy. We made the first punch, and they answered back.”
Trice led the USA scoring with 16 points and added four assists, Reggie Hearn (Stockton Kings), Hopson and Chasson Randle (Capital City Go-Go) each accounted for nine points.
The USA narrowly lost the rebounding battle as Argentina recorded 45 rebounds to the USA’s 44. Tyler Zeller (Free Agent) accounted for 12 rebounds for the USA, while Eric Moreland (Free Agent) added eight.
Former University of Georgia head coach Mark Fox and former Georgetown University coach John Thompson III are serving as USA assistant coaches. The USA teams during the World Cup Qualifying games have primarily been comprised of NBA G League athletes.
In other second-round Group E action Thursday, Uruguay (6-3) edged Puerto Rico (5-3) 64-62, and Panama (4-5) defeated Mexico (3-6) 76-65.
The November/December second-round window of play concludes Sunday for Group E. The USA will face Uruguay in Montevideo, Puerto Rico is on the road at Panama and Mexico takes on Argentina in La Rioja.
Following completion of the first round, the top three finishing teams in each of the four, first-round groups advanced with their overall records to the second round. The three advancing teams from Group A, Argentina, Uruguay and Panama, and the top three finishers from Group C, USA, Puerto Rico and Mexico, formed Group E. The top three finishers from Group B, and Group D formed 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 third and final FIBA Americas second-round window that is Feb. 21-25, 2019, 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 in Group F, and the best fourth placed team between Group E and Group F.
Under FIBA’s new competition system, a total of 80 national teams from FIBA’s four regions of Africa, Americas, Asia (which now includes Oceania) and Europe are competing in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Qualifiers over 15 months looking to earn a qualifying berth in the 32-team 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup competition that will be held Aug. 31-Sept. 15 in China.