U.S. Men Fall Late to Puerto Rico in Pan American Games
The U.S. men led by 10 points with eight minutes to play, but could not hold on and dropped an 87-84 decision to Puerto Rico in the final game of Pool play at the Pan American Games. The USA completed Pool A competition with a 2-1 record and will play in the medal round on Saturday against Argentina, the top seed in Pool B, at 10 p.m. EDT on ESPNU.
A victory would vault the U.S. into the gold medal game against the winner of the Puerto Rico-Dominican Republic contest on Sunday. A loss would mean a battle for the bronze medal, also on Sunday.“We didn’t play with our usual composure down the stretch,” said head coach Ed Cooley (Providence). “They (Puerto Rico) made some big shots and executed well and we did not. But I am pleased and proud of this team to be able to compete in the medal round. We can’t wait for tomorrow’s game.”
Having already qualified for the medal round going into the Puerto Rico game, the U.S. started the contest with what has become its customary speed and athleticism. This was achieved without Myles Powell (Seton Hall), who was a little banged up after the first two games and was held out of the starting lineup for precautionary reasons.
The U.S. scored 13 points in the first three minutes and led 13-7. Cooley continued to substitute liberally and six different players scored in the first six minutes with Jermaine Samuels (Villanova) netting nine points. Team USA connected on eight 3-pointers and extended its lead to 38-27 at the end of the quarter. Samuels would finish with a team-high 17 points.
The second quarter began with Puerto Rico scoring five straight points to cut the deficit to 38-32, but Team USA responded with an 11-1 run to push its lead to 49-33. Puerto Rico chipped away at the advantage mostly by getting to the foul line. By halftime, the USA held a 57-46 lead. Samuels had 13 points while Alpha Diallo (Providence) added 12 points.
Most of the third quarter was played evenly as the U.S. scoring pace slowed a little. Cooley's squad had some success going inside to Geoff Groselle (Creighton) and Mustapha Heron (St. John’s), but Puerto Rico sliced the lead to 70-64 by the end of the period.
Heron opened the fourth quarter with a lane jumper to make it 74-64, but Puerto Rico kept battling. With 5:44 remaining a double technical was call with Powell taking the “T” for the USA. It was his fifth foul, so he headed to the bench after scoring only two points in less than 14 minutes. He entered the game as the tournament’s top scorer with a 24.5 average.
From there, Puerto Rico scored eight straight points to take a 79-77 lead with 2:59 remaining. The game went back and forth the rest of the way. Groselle made one of two free throws with 36 seconds left to give Team USA an 84-83 edge, but a 3-pointer Derek Reese with 22 seconds left gave Puerto Rico the lead for good.
“I didn’t think we were playing that well even when we were ahead,” said Groselle, who played 18 minutes and finished with eight points, four rebounds and a couple of blocked shots that did not make it into the box score. “Those teams are very experienced and we had some lapses defensively. They hit some big shots.”
The BIG EAST Conference is representing USA Basketball at the Pan American Games. Providence’s Ed Cooley is the team’s head coach. Kevin Willard of Seton Hall and Mike Martin of Brown are the assistant coaches.
The Pan American Games is a multi-sport event featuring teams from North, South and Central American and the Caribbean, which is organized by the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) and played every four years in the year preceding the Olympics (2019, 2023, etc.).
Player roster, profiles and additional information are located at www.bigeast.com/panam.