USA Men Top Lithuania and South Korea to Open FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament
Including an exciting, 21-20, come-from-behind win over Lithuania (1-1) in its opening game and a 21-3 win over South Korea (0-2), the USA Men’s 3x3 National Team opened play at the FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament with a pair of impressive performances on May 27 in Graz, Austria.
Against Lithuania, the USA got five defensive stops in the final minutes, including with 20 seconds left, when Joey King (Minnesota/Eagan, Minn.) stole the ball, dribbled to behind the arc and made a 2-pointer to claim the 21-20 USA comeback win with 16 seconds remaining on the clock.
“Lithuania is a great offensive team, and we knew they were going to put up points,” King said. “Obviously, they got off to a great start, took the lead, and at the end of the day we knew we had to be strongest in the last three minutes. So, we locked down toward the end and really defended well, and we're able to have a few things go our way.”
Early in the game, the USA led 7-3 before Lithuania reeled off an 8-0 run to go ahead 11-7 at 5:32. Over the next three minutes, Kareem Maddox (Princeton/Los Angeles, Calif.) scored six of his eight points against Lithuania to help the USA pull within one point, 17-16, at 2:25.
Lithuania quickly scored three points to lead 20-16 and looked to be on the verge of an important win. King scored to make it 20-17, and a timeout was called.
After the break, Maddox drove the lane for a dunk, followed by King who turned the corner for a lay-in, and it was 20-19, with the USA down by one point and 28 seconds left.
That is when King got the USA’s biggest defensive stop of the game, followed by the 2-pointer for the win.
“We got to do somethings better,” Maddox said. “I think we were really critical of ourselves after that first game, but I had an old coach that used to say, ‘You don't have to lose to learn lessons,’ and I think that first game was a serious case of that. I mean, we learned a lot, and we know what we have to fix, but we didn't have to lose in order to earn those lessons, and that's important.”
After its hard-fought win against Lithuania, the USA was able to lead from start to finish in a 21-3 win over South Korea that saw King score seven, Maddox add six, Dominique Jones (Fort Hays State/Harlem, N.Y.) add five and Robbie Hummel (Purdue/Valparaiso, Ind.) scored three points.
The USA made seven 2-pointers overall while giving up just three made baskets.
“We had such an emotional game against Lithuania, we couldn't come into our Korea game and have a letdown,’ King said. “So, we kept our energy high, continued to compete on the defensive end, and I think that really showed against Korea. Our goal was to limit their 2- point shots. I think we did that pretty well.”
After the preliminary round, the top two finishing teams from each group will advance to the quarterfinals on May 30, and the quarterfinal winners will advance to the semifinals.
The two winning semifinal teams will represent two of the three men’s Olympic berths at the event and will not play a championship game. Instead, the two losing semifinal teams will play for the third place title and the last Olympic spots
3x3 basketball is played with a 12-second shot clock on a half court. Baskets inside the arc and free throws are worth one point, and baskets made from outside the arc are worth two points. The winner is the first team to score 21 points, or the leading team at the end of the 10-minute game clock.