USA Men's U16 National Team Rallies For 83-57 Win Over Argentina
Falling behind by 17 points over the first 12 minutes of play, the USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team (1-0) got it in gear and fought its way to an 83-57 victory over Argentina (0-1) in its opening game of the 2019 FIBA Americas U16 Championship on Monday evening at the Guilherme Paraense Arena in Belém, Brazil.
Leading the USA were Jabari Smith Jr. (Sandy Creek H.S./Tyrone, Ga.), who finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, and AJ Griffin (Archbishop Stepinac H.S./Ossining, N.Y.) added 17 points and four assists in just 12 minutes of action. Amari Bailey (Sierra Canyon H.S./Chatsworth, Calif.) and Richard Isaacs Jr. (Coronado H.S./Las Vegas, Nev.) tossed in 10 points each.
“This is a very resilient group,” said USA U16 head coach Mike Jones (DeMatha Catholic H.S., Md.), whose team fell behind 20-7 after the first quarter and trailed by 17, 25-8 two minutes into the second period. “Obviously, we went through some adversity today and our guys stuck together and fought through. It was a very impressive performance by Argentina to start the game, but our guys stuck together and were about coming out with the win.”
After falling behind 20-7 after the end of a first quarter that saw Argentina reel off 16-straight points and the U.S. shoot just 15.0 percent (3-20 FGs) from the field, the USA began the second period in a similar manner and faced its largest deficit, 25-8, with 7:59 to play in the half.
“It’s a work in progress,” said Jones. “We’re trying to play so aggressive, but some of the things are just mental lapses. It was our first game that really meant something, that really mattered. We’ve got to get better. We’ve got to adjust. It was a physical game but sometimes we were a little sloppy with our physicality, and we have to get better at it.”
The USA started to click, and its defense began to drive its offense for the first time of the night. From there, Lipsey hit two from the line and then assisted on an Isaacs 3-pointer. Twenty seconds later the two reversed that – Isaacs dished to Lipsey for 3 and suddenly the deficit was cut to single digits, 25-16 at 6:39.
“We came out kind of slow,” stated Smith. “We had to get used to the play, but once we got used to it, we just took off from there.”
In all, the U.S. forced eight Argentine turnovers in the second quarter and limited their trips to the line to eight, while slowly chipping away at the gap. With Argentina ahead 31-24, Smith contributed five points in a 7-0 spurt to even the game at halftime, 31-31.
“It’s always been a dream to play for USA Basketball,” said Smith. “So, as the game got going, I think for everybody, there were a little bit of nerves. But, as we got settled into the game, we got relaxed and pulled away a little bit.”
Continuing its momentum push, the USA outscored Argentina 29-16 in the third period and 23-10 in the fourth for the 83-57 win.
Griffin saw limited playing time in the first half after being whistled for three fouls in 4:28 of play. However, he made adjustments and scored 15 points in the second half while picking up just one foul.
“My coaches just told me to stay composed and to make sure that I stay out of foul trouble, and when I go back in to be careful, but still play aggressive at the same time,” said Griffin on how he was able to make the adjustment. “After that, I just played hard. I played aggressive. I tried to get my team going and I fed off their energy.”
After committing eight turnovers in the first quarter, the USA had just seven over the final 30 minutes. In contrast, Argentina’s seven first quarter turnover tally ballooned to 26 by the end of the game. The USA capitalized for 28 points off those turnovers.
Tamin Lipsey (Ames H.S./Ames, Iowa) dished out a game-high five assists, had three steals and took at least four charges.
“(Defense) definitely was my focus,” said Lipsey. “When your shots aren’t falling you have to find a different way to bring energy to the team, which is defense, and I take a lot of pride in my defense.”
“Tamin’s charges were incredibly impressive,” said Jones. “I don’t know what kind of records there are for that, but he probably took six legitimate ones, maybe four or five were called charges. He’s a tough kid who sacrifices his body so his team could be better. You just can’t put a price on that in terms of us being able to be successful tonight.”
The USA outrebounded Argentina 70-49 and snagged 28 offensive boards that led to 22 second chance points.
Kijani Wright (Windward H.S./Los Angeles, Calif.), who scored four points and hauled in eight rebounds, swatted a game-high four blocked shots.
The USA U16s continue preliminary play against Mexico (0-1) on June 4 (12:30 p.m. EDT) and Dominican Republic (1-0) on June 5 (12:30 p.m. EDT). All games will be streamed live online at Facebook.com/USABasketball and YouTube.com/FIBA.
Dominican Republic defeated Mexico 71-66 in today’s other Group A game. In Group B action, Canada (1-0) outscored Uruguay by 20 points in the fourth quarter en route to a 101-63 victory over Uruguay (0-1) and host Brazil (1-0) downed Puerto Rico (0-1) 72-58 in the final game of the day.
“We’re going to get every team’s best shot,” said Jones of his team’s next opponent. “USA Basketball has been the standard and I know that all seven of these teams here would love the opportunity to beat us. So, we know we’re going to get their best shot and we have to be ready to play. We have to have a better start tomorrow.”
Following the June 3-5 preliminary round, all eight teams will advance to the quarterfinals on June 7, the semifinals will be played on June 8 and the gold medal game will be played on June 9.
Assisting Jones and the U16 squad are high school head coaches Eric Flannery (St. Edward H.S., Ohio) and Sharman White (Pace Academy, Ga.).
The USA U16 National Team is competing in the FIBA Americas U16 Championship for Men in hopes of securing a sixth-straight gold medal and berth to the 2020 FIBA U17 World Cup.
Players eligible for this team must be 16 years old or younger (born on or after Jan. 1, 2003) and U.S. citizens.
2019 FIBA Americans U16 Championship for Men
USA Basketball has claimed the gold medal in all five editions of the biennial event, which was first held in 2009. With its victory over Argentina, the USA is now 26-0 in men’s FIBA Americas U16 Championship action.
USA U16 team members of note include: Bradley Beal (2009), Vernon Carey Jr. (2017), Quinn Cook (2009), Andre Drummond (2009), Terrance Ferguson (2013), Aaron Gordon (2011), Zion Harmon (2017), Markus Howard (2015), Tyus Jones (2011), Kevin Knox (2015), James Michael McAdoo (2009), Malik Newman (2013), Jahlil Okafor (2011), Jabari Parker (2011), Diamond Stone (2013), Jason Tatum (2013), Gary Trent Jr. (2015), Jarred Vanderbilt (2015) and Seventh Woods (2013).