USA Fights Off Mexico 94-78, Secures Spot in FIBA AmeriCup 2022
The USA Men’s AmeriCup Qualifying Team (4-0) fended off a resilient Mexico (2-2) team to earn a 94-78 victory on Monday night at the Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. The victory also assured the United States its berth into the FIBA AmeriCup 2022 by virtue of at least a top-three finish in its FIBA AmeriCup Qualifying Group D.
“Winning the two games was great in window number one, but that didn't get us in. That didn’t qualify us,” said USA head coach Mike Fratello. “And when they invited me back to coach window two, I was very excited and happy, because I wanted to be part of helping the United States move on, qualify for the next thing. So that the fact that we were able to do that was very rewarding to me. I love to see young guys get together, form a team, work together, play defense together, pass the ball together and then have success. And that's what this week, last two weeks has been all about, trying to grow together and get better.”
The USA outscored Mexico 29-14 in the second quarter to pull away and led by as many as 26 points in the third quarter, but Mexico fought back to within 11 points in the fourth quarter. The USA fended off the charge, however, helped by its 54.4 shooting percentage and by its 21-of-27 shooting from the free throw line.
Yante Maten (Maine Red Claws/Pontiac, Mich.) led the USA with 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field to go with nine rebounds; Josh Magette (Lakeland Magic/Birmingham, Ala.) added 19 points and was 7-of-7 from the free throw line; John Jenkins (Hapoel Eilat, Israel/Hendersonville, Tenn.) finished with 16 points; Travis Trice (Gemani Basket Brescia, Italy/Huber Heights, Ohio) contributed 14 points and six assists; and Levi Randolph (Canton Charge/Madison, Ala.) compiled 12 points, five rebounds and four assists.
“We're all talented basketball players, and so we just read what the defense gave us and then just executed from there and played unselfishly,” Maten said. “I think that's was the biggest thing was that led to us winning."
The first quarter featured six lead changes, and the USA ended the period leading 23-20. And while Maten contributed six points for the USA, Mexico’s Gabriel Villarreal paced Mexico with 12 points.
The USA held Villarreal to just two more points for the game, however, as its offense heated up in the second quarter to shoot 10-of-14 from the field (.714). The USA worked the ball into the paint and closed the first half with a 15-5 run to bring the score to 52-34 at halftime. Maten added eight more points in the quarter, and Magette and Jenkins each added seven points in the period.
The USA got points from five different players to push its lead to 26 points, 70-44, after a tip-in from Maten at 4:42 in the third quarter. Mexico rallied to close the period with a 9-2 run, and the score was 72-53 headed into the fourth quarter.
Mexico continued to close the gap and outscored the USA 11-3 to start the fourth quarter to cut the margin to 75-64 at 5:32, and the USA called a timeout. The USA scored out of the break and was able to match Mexico’s pace for the remainder of the game to finish with a 94-78 win. Magette scored 10 points in the quarter, including two deep 3-pointers.
Mexico shot 32 3s and made just nine of those (.281), and the USA also collected a rebounding advantage of 38-28.
Fratello was assisted by Othella Harrington and Joe Prunty.
The 2020-21 FIBA AmeriCup Qualifiers feature 16 teams from the Americas zone divided into four groups of four teams. The top three finishing teams in each Group will earn a qualifying berth in the FIBA AmeriCup 2022.
The USA will have one more window of action and is scheduled to play at Bahamas on Feb. 18, 2021, and at Mexico on Feb. 21, 2021.
The three other groups also are scheduled to wrap up their third-and-final window of action Feb. 18-22, 2021. While the USA, Bahamas (1-3), Mexico and Puerto Rico (1-3) comprise the FIBA AmeriCup Qualifying Group D; Group A consists of Argentina (3-1), Chile (1-3), Colombia (1-3) and Venezuela (3-1); Group B includes Brazil (4-0), Panama (2-2), Paraguay (0-4) and Uruguay (2-2); and Group C features Canada (1-1), Cuba (1-2), Dominican Republic (3-1) and U.S. Virgin Islands (1-2).