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The USA enjoyed a double-digit lead in each of the first three quarters and still got a test of resiliency when Serbia rallied in the fourth to tie the game late and force the Americans to make clutch plays in the final minutes to earn a 92-88 exhibition victory Thursday evening in Heraklion, Greece.
“There’s no doubt you want to use every experience to help you get better as a team, to come together as a team,” said USA and Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber about his U.S. team getting a test in the exhibition contest. “We’re all disappointed. We had that 14-16 point lead, and you hope you’ll make a couple plays and get it to 20 and finish the game, but it didn’t happen.
“We let down but we still won, we had situations where we had to make plays. Cade (Cunningham) made some big plays, we had some guys really step up - Trevion (Williams). The bench actually was big time, and Trevion recorded 17 (points) and nine (rebounds) and then Scottie (Reynolds) also did some good things for us, and we had a lot of good things happen. So this was good, a good learning experience and you grow and learn and hopefully get better.”
The USA led 32-22 after the first quarter, 48-36 at the end of the second quarter and was ahead 73-60 heading into the game’s final 10 minutes. Serbia kept pecking away at the USA lead, and with 1:11 left in the game, Serbia tied the score 87-87 after outscoring the U.S. 27-14 to that point in the fourth quarter.
Cade Cunningham (Montverde Academy, Fla./Arlington, Texas) scored on a drive to put the USA back ahead 89-87 with 51 seconds left, and Serbia on its next possession converted one of two free throws to make the score 89-88 with 32.2 seconds left.
Jalen Suggs (Minnehaha Academy/Minneapolis, Minn.) made one of two free throws with 31.6 seconds remaining to up the USA led to 90-88, and after getting stop on the other end, Suggs was fouled on a drive to the basket with 5.8 seconds to play. Suggs made both free throws to push the USA ahead by four, 92-88, and Serbia missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Six-foot-nineTrevion Williams (Purdue/Chicago, Ill.) recorded 17 points and added nine rebounds to pace the USA’s offense, while Cunningham accounted for 15 points, five rebounds and six assists. Scottie Barnes (University School/West Palm Beach, Fla.) added 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting, and Suggs finished with 11 points.
“It was great, great preparation. We had a lot of good things and a lot of bad things but we’re going to learn from it,” said Trevion Williams. “We came out with the win but the main thing we are trying to focus on is trying to get better every day, we’ve been trying to rest up as much as possible and we’re going to keep pushing to the gold.
“Going into the game I knew this would be my type of game,” continued Trevion Williams. “With somebody bigger I can play much more physical. With little guys you have to kind of watch it because they look for you to foul. So, going into the game I was definitely looking forward to playing a lot, which I did. It was a great outcome for us. These are my types of games - playing against bigger guys.”
The U.S. was credited with 26 points off of Serbia’s 18 turnovers, and recorded 32 fast break points while outscoring Serbia 42-6 in bench points.
“From the beginning I think the thing we’ve talked about is that our defense has to be the thing that is important,” said Weber. “If you look at it, we scored points off turnovers, transition points and those were big time. We dominated the boards the first half and we had a bunch of second chance points, not as much the second half. I think we got a little stagnant, took some tough shots, quick shots, didn’t have the chance to get it. But you know, to Serbia’s credit they didn’t quit playing. They kept playing to win. They made it a game, and we found a way to win at the end.”
The USA opens U19 World Cup play at 1 p.m. (EDT) Saturday against New Zealand, then faces Lithuania on June 30 (10:45 a.m. EDT) and will close out preliminary round play versus Senegal on July 2 (9 a.m. EDT).
Following the preliminary round, all teams will advance to the round of 16 on July 3. The winners of the round of 16 will advance to the medal quarterfinals on July 5, and the losers will play out for ninth-16th places. The semifinals will be played on July 6, and the gold and bronze medal games on July 7.
All of the USA’s preliminary round game will stream live online at YouTube.com/FIBA and Facebook.com/USA Basketball. ESPN+ will broadcast the USA’s quarterfinals, semifinals and finals games should the team advance.
The USA’s assistant coaches areMike Hopkins (Washington) and LeVelle Moton (North Carolina Central).
FIBA U19 World Cup
First held in 1979 and known as the FIBA Junior World Championship, the U19 World Cup features the world’s top 19-year-old and younger players. FIBA holds U19 World Cups every two years. In the 13 U19 competitions held, USA men’s teams have won six gold medals, three silver medals and one bronze medal, including gold in three of the past five U19 World Cups (2009, 2013 and 2015), and own a 91-14 all-time record at the event.
Past USA U19 teams have included standouts such as: Stacey Augmon (1987), Vin Baker (1991), MVP of the 2015 U19 World Cup Jalen Brunson (2015), Vince Carter (1995), Nick Collison (1999), Stephen Curry (2007), Terrance Ferguson (2015), Eric Floyd (1979), Aaron Gordon (MVP of the 2013 U19 World Cup), Tim Hardaway Jr. (2011), Montrezl Harrell (2013), Gordon Hayward (2009), Larry Johnson (1987), Jeremy Lamb (2011), Stephon Marbury (1995), Doug McDermott (2011), Jahlil Okafor (2013), Gary Payton (1987), Sam Perkins (1979), Cameron Reddish (2017), J.J. Redick (2003), Marcus Smart (2013), Klay Thompson (2009), Scott Skiles (1983), Austin Wiley (2017), Deron Williams (2003), Justise Winslow (2013), PJ Washington (2017) and James Worthy.