USA Men 0-2 After First Day of Action at FIBA 3x3 U23 World Cup
The USA men (0-2) came up short against Romania (1-1) 21-18 and Latvia (2-0) 21-14 on their first day of Group B action at the FIBA 3x3 U23 World Cup on Thursday evening in Lanzhou, China.
The USA has two more preliminary round games on Oct. 5 – against Kazakhstan (0-2) at 6:35 a.m. EDT and host China (2-0) at 8:45 a.m. EDT. All games are available live online at youtube.com/fiba3x3.
Representing the red, white and blue are Ronald Fairrow III (Point Park University/Pickerington, Ohio), David Payne (Cleveland State University/Chicago, Ill.), Mark Shehady (Point Park University/Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Juwan Willis (Point Park University/Swissvale, Pa.).
In its first game against Romania, the USA jumped ahead 4-1, but Romania took an 8-7 lead with 7:00 to go. Three 2-pointers from Payne pushed the USA ahead 14-9, but Romania responded by outscoring the USA 12-4 and closed the 21-18 win on a 2-pointer with just over a minute on the clock. Payne finished with nine points, and Shehady had five.
The USA committed 10 fouls by the 2:36 mark, at which point, Romania was awarded two free throws and the ball back on each foul, but Romania finished the game just 4-of-10 from the line.
“You see a huge difference in physicality when you come to these games, and I think that was the separator for us,” said Shehady. “I thought we played hard, and we executed well for the most part.
“We could have had some more off-ball movement. We were a little stagnant, but first time playing together, I thought we did a pretty solid job.”
Against Latvia, who was the silver medalist team at last year’s FIBA 3x3 U23 World Cup, the USA hung close for the first five minutes, and was within one point, 12-11, at 4:24. Down the stretch, however, Latvia outscored the USA 9-3 and ended the game at 1:30. Fairrow and Willis each scored five points.
“I thought we played extraordinarily well for us four guys being together for the first time at this tournament,” said Shehady. “But they’re a tough team, got to give props to them. I feel like we did a better job of sharing the ball, moving, and we did the best we could.”
The top two finishing teams from each pool will advance to the quarterfinals on Oct. 6, in which A1 will play C2, D1 will meet B2, B1 will face D2 and C1 will take on A2. The semifinals and championship game also will be played on Oct. 6.
The complete game schedule is available online.
“We got a chance to see China, and they shoot it really well,” Shehady said of one of the USA’s two remaining Group B opponents. “So, we have to make sure as soon we are sprinting out and closing out with high hands, because if you let teams get too many 2s in this, it’s obviously a deal breaker, because, you are playing to 21.”
Traveling as the team advisor is Joe Lewandowski, the head men’s basketball coach at Park Point University and a USA Basketball 3x3 regional coordinator.
“It’s been a great experience,” Shehady added. “You don’t get too many opportunities like this. I’m thankful that coach brought us along.
“I’m just glad to see the different style of basketball. That’s the biggest thing with me. The area is great, great atmosphere. There is a lot of pride that the fans have in their countries, and I thought that was really fascinating. Whenever China plays at home, that place is just packed, a lot of noise.”
One previous FIBA 3x3 U23 World Cup was held in 2018, however, the USA did not participate. Russia claimed the 2018 FIBA Men’s 3x3 World Cup title with a 7-0 record, Latvia finished second and Hungary placed third.