USA 3x3 Men’s World Cup Team Knocks Off Slovenia 21-14, Advances To Semifinals
On a day when its outside shots weren’t falling, the USA Men’s 3x3 World Cup Team (5-0) shot 85.6% (12-14 1pt FGs) from inside the arc and earned a 21-14 victory over Slovenia (3-2) in the 2019 FIBA 3x3 World Cup quarterfinal round on Saturday afternoon in Amsterdam.
Canyon Barry (Iowa Wolves/Florida/Colorado Springs, Colo.) led the USA against Slovenia with a game-high seven points, Damon Huffman (Brown/Petoskey, Mich.) scored six, Robbie Hummel (Purdue/Valparaiso, Ind.) scored five points and hauled in a game-high seven rebounds and Kareem Maddox (Princeton/Los Angeles, Calif) topped out with three points and three rebounds.
The win advances the U.S. to the July 23 semifinals where it will face Poland (4-1) at 9:20 a.m. EDT. The second semifinal matchup features Latvia (4-1) against three-time defending champion Serbia (4-1) at 10:05 a.m. EDT.
The bronze medal game (12:10 p.m. EDT) and gold medal game (1:30 p.m. EDT) will be played later that day. Fans in the USA can watch the games live online at FloHoops.com.
Not only is a gold medal on the line Sunday, but the three medalists will earn an automatic berth to the 2020 FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament that will be held next spring (dates and site TBD).
“(Slovenia is) one of the best teams in the world and for a reason,” said Hummel. “They play together on the (3x3) circuit. They’re very experienced, they’ve played this game for a long time. We knew it would be a physical game, they’re a very good defensive team. Offensively, they run their actions. Our game plan was solid. We came out and executed and defensively, we’ve been really good all weekend.”
Opening the game on a 4-0 run on baskets from three different players, the USA never trailed. However, it wasn’t a walk in the park against a Slovenian team that features four players ranked among the top 20 in FIBA’s 3x3 world rankings.
Midway through the game, the USA still held a four-point lead, 9-5.
A 2-pointer from Slovenia followed by a basket as the shot clock expired seemed to give Slovenia momentum as it narrowed to 9-8 with 4:11 on the clock.
Enter Huffman, who played his first FIBA-sanctioned 3x3 event in 2013, competed on the 2017 USA 3x3 World Cup Team and is the most experienced 3x3 athlete on the USA roster.
He saw that the shot left the Slovenian shooter’s hand after the shot clock expired and immediately called for a challenge.
“It’s a big possession because it takes a point away from them and it gives us the ball,” said Huffman. “So, it’s just about being aware, which comes from having a little bit of experience because you have to call it in the middle of the game. I was on the court at the time and it probably looked weird because I stopped playing, walked over to the ref and made a ‘C’ with my fingers. I think that my experience helped in that situation because I knew what to do. Maybe if it was someone playing for the first time, they might not be able to recognize it and make that call.”
The USA won the challenge, which meant the basket was ruled to have come after the shot clock expired. So, Slovenia lost the point and the red, white and blue got the ball back and kept its option open for later challenges – if a team loses a challenge, it may not make another challenge in that game.
“That was a game-changing call,” said Maddox. “It was a huge eagle eye by Damon to initiate that challenge, because it was really close and that was a pivotal moment in the game. To win a challenge like that and then to have them lose a challenge later in the game, those are deflating moments for them and definitely inflating for us.”
The USA scored the games next four points on a Barry 2 and a pair of free throws from Hummel to go up by six points, 13-7.
Following a point from Slovenia, Barry scored the game’s next three and the USA’s lead was 16-8 with 2:46 on the clock.
After three-straight points from the Europeans, Slovenia challenged an out of bounds call at 1:55 that had given possession to the U.S. However, the call was signaled correct, Slovenia lost its right for another challenge and the USA received the ball.
The teams battled back and forth, but the momentum was clearly on the side of the Americans, who, holding a 19-14 lead with 26.9 seconds on the clock, received a game-winning 2-pointer from Huffman to close out the quarterfinal contest 21-14.
“Our game plan was to stay composed and do what we’ve been doing,” said Maddox. “Slovenia is a really experienced team. We knew that they were going to have all the tricks of the trade. Our game plan was to stay composed, use our length and athleticism to combat that.”
The USA, which was shooting 37.3% (19-51 2pt FGs) from beyond the 2-point line heading into the game, managed to hit just 18.8% (3-16 2pt FGs) from afar against Slovenia. However, due to its inside shooting, the team finished the game hitting 50.0% (15-30 FGs) overall.
In the other three semifinal games, Serbia defeated France (3-2) 20-12, Poland topped Puerto Rico (3-2) 21-14 and Latvia raced past Ukraine (3-2) 21-7.
Poland features sharp-shooting Michael Hicks, a naturalized citizen who is leading the tournament with 52 (10.4 ppg.) of his team’s 92 points, has closed two of its games at the 21-point mark and its lone loss came at the hands of Japan (2-2), 21-17, in its final preliminary game.
“Poland is an experienced team,” said Huffman. “They have some talented scorers. They compete and I think that’s a good recipe for a successful team. We’ll start preparing tonight on how we’re going to guard them, how we can use our athleticism and our length to challenge their shots as much as possible. They’ll make plays because they’re good players, but we just need to make them make as many difficult shots as possible over the course of the 10-minute game and if we do that and we play the way we play on offense, we should be okay.”
Olympic fans will see the launch of a new basketball discipline with the inclusion of 3x3 in 2020. The exciting and fast-paced game officially was unveiled in international competition at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games and has since become a fan favorite at FIBA 3x3 World Cup events. Played on a half court with a 10-minute clock, and a 12-second shot clock, the first team to 21 points, or the team in the lead at the end of regulation, is the winner. The non-stop action of 3x3 will ensure it is one of the hottest tickets in Tokyo, and fans in Las Vegas will get an early taste of that excitement during the USA Basketball 3x3 Nationals.
About the FIBA 3x3 World Cup
The sixth FIBA 3x3 World Cup, an event launched in 2012 and originally scheduled to be held every other year, is now an annual event that features 20 men's teams and 20 women's teams in 2019. In addition to the men’s and women’s 3x3 tournaments, included in the 2019 3x3 World Cup program will be skills contests, giving athletes chances to win additional medals.
Including today’s victory, the USA men 3x3 teams have compiled a 21-9 overall record in five 3x3 World Cups and claimed the silver medal, its first podium finish, at the 2016 3x3 Worlds.