USA U19 Men Hold Off Australia 87-66 to Remain Unbeaten at the 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup
The USA (3-0) started off another game strong with a 9-0 run out of the gates versus Australia (1-2), and never trailed to close out the 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup preliminary round with a perfect slate heading into the knockout round. Leading by two points at halftime, the USA opened the second half on a 12-0 run and continued to pull away en route to the 87-66 win in Riga, Latvia.
The USA won the first quarter by a 24-16 margin, but Australia played tight, winning the second quarter 26-20 and narrowing the USA’s lead going into halftime to 44-42. Mike Miles (TCU/Lancaster, Texas) had a strong first half with 10 points, two rebounds and two assists.
“I saw my team needed me to score in this game,” said Miles. All the other games I was focused on being a point guard. They needed me to score, and I got shots to fall early.”
It was the second half where the USA came out with quick pace and never looked back. The Americans started the third quarter on a 12-0 run, which ended with a pair of 3-pointers from Miles, to secure a 56-42 lead at the 7:04 mark in the third period. In all, the USA outscored Australia 23-8 in the third quarter for a comfortable 67-50 advantage heading into the final stanza.
“In the first half I don’t think we handled the press very well,” stated USA head coach Jamie Dixon (TCU). “We went through it, we talked about it, but you know it's one of those things that we don't understand spacing at times, but we did a much better job within the second half. “Mike (Miles) was tremendous at getting the ball to the guys and was unselfish and made some shots today. He really led the team, set the tone and makes the commitment to getting us passing the ball.”
The USA had all 12 players score in the game and five players finish with double-digit efforts. Miles led the way with a team-high-tying 16 points, three rebounds, two assists and one steal. Kenneth Lofton Jr. (Louisiana Tech/Port Arthur, Texas) added a team-high-tying 16 points, seven rebounds, two assists and one block and Chet Holmgren (Minnehaha Academy/Minneapolis, Minn.) recorded 10 points, a team-high eight rebounds, three assists, one steal and a game-high four blocked shots. His four blocks are tied for the most blocked shots in a single game in a USA Men’s U19 competition. Jaden Ivey (Purdue/Mishawaka, Ind.) also chipped in 10 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks and Kennedy Chandler (Sunrise Christian Academy/Memphis, Tenn.) finished with 10 points and three assists.
“We came out slow a little bit towards the end of the second quarter but, we bounced back starting the second half and got the lead up,” said Chandler. I felt good out there, we came out to a strong start, and I thought I brought the energy coming off the bench.”
The USA won the rebounding differential by a 56-39 margin, dished out 20 assists, forced Australia into 10 turnovers leading to seven points and outscored Australia 40-34 in the paint. The USA also recorded 12 blocked shots in the game, tying the record for the most blocks by a USA Men’s U19 team in a single game.
“The most fun part of this has been seeing us come together,” said Miles. “The first two scrimmages we had we didn’t play good at all. The last three games it was a complete turnaround, and we were like a whole new team. Just us playing together and us having fun on the bench and stuff is the best part.”
In the second half, the USA held Australia without a field goal for a stretch of 8:08. Australia was without a basket from the 4:49 mark in the third quarter to the 6:41 mark in the fourth.
The Americans will play South Korea (0-3) in the round of 16 on Wednesday, July 7, at 1:30 EDT, and with a win would advance to the quarterfinals to play the winner of the Senegal (1-2) vesus Latvia (1-2) round of 16 contest on Friday, July 9, in Riga. Semifinals will be played on July 10 and finals are scheduled for July 11.
In the other games from today, Spain (2-1) pounded South Korea 99-48, Canada (3-0) defeated Senegal 85-56, France (2-1) took down Argentina (2-1) 89-52, Lithuania (2-1) beat Japan (0-3) 95-63, Turkey (2-1) nipped Mail (0-3) 58-54, Serbia (3-) edged host Latvia 71-70 and Iran (1-2) held off Puerto Rico (1-2) 81-68.
Assisting Dixon on the USA sidelines are assistant coaches Jerod Haase (Stanford) and James Jones (Yale).
Reigning FIBA U19 World Cup gold medalist, USA men’s teams have won seven gold medals, three silver medals and one bronze medal while compiling an 101-14 overall record in U19 World Cup play since the event was launched in 1979. Even more impressive, the USA has won four of the past six U19 golds since 2009.