USA Men Open FIBA Americas U16 Championship With a Convincing 118-67 Win Over Puerto Rico
There were no signs of first-game jitters for the 2021 USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team (1-0) during its game on Monday afternoon versus Puerto Rico (0-1).
Opening play at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship for Men in Xalapa, Mexico, the Americans erupted for 42 first-quarter points to take control 42-18 and continued to roll for a convincing 118-67 victory.
Six-foot-eight forward(Duncanville H.S./Dallas, Texas) led the USA offense with 26 points, tying for the second most points scored by a USA player in a U16 men’s competition. Holland, who made a USA record 12 field goals (12-16 FGs), also added seven rebounds, three assists and three steals in just 17:27 of action.
(Mount St. Joseph H.S./Bowie, Md.) added 17 points and seven rebounds. Further aiding the victorious USA effort were (Overtime Elite/Oakland, Calif.), with14 points and a game-best 12 rebounds; (John Paul II H.S./Richardson, Texas), who had 14 points and six steals; (Julius L. Chambers H.S./Charlotte, N.C.), with 11 points, five assists and six steals, and (Combine Academy/Hickory, N.C.), contributing 11 points, six assists and three steals.
The USA will continue preliminary round Group B action facing Dominican Republic (1-0) Tuesday (12:30 p.m. EDT) and will conclude preliminary play against Chile (0-1) on Aug. 25. (12:30 p.m. EDT). All games are being streamed live on the FIBA YouTube channel.
“We were ready,” remarked USA U16 National Team head coach (Pace Academy, Ga.) on the USA’s first quarter performance. “We had a really good scrimmage yesterday, and we’ve had some great practices and guys were ready to get after it. We’ve been building up to this moment and they finally got a chance to get on stage and see what we got, and I think they performed pretty good under the conditions.”
Tied 5-5 with 8:41 to play in the opening quarter, the USA got points from 10 players during a game-clinching 30-6 run that saw the six-time defending U16 champions sprint to a 35-11 lead.
The USA led comfortably 42-18 after the game’s first 10 minutes and outscored Puerto Rico 22-18 in the second stanza to take a 64-34 to the locker room at halftime.
“It felt good to get on the court for the first time with these guys in a real game that counted and to get one step closer to our goal,” said Holland. “I was very ready to play and I feel like as a team we were ready to go, we were really locked in. The coaches did a good job of preparing us, so I felt like we didn’t have anything to worry about. We just had to bring out what the coaches taught us on the court.”
The USA’s athletic, pressure defense wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico. Limiting Puerto Rico to 36.8% (14-38) shooting in the first 20 minutes, the USA pressured Puerto Rico into 17 turnovers and recorded 15 steals. The U.S. also took full advantage on the glass, grabbing 18 offensive rebounds and outrebounding its opposition 37-17.
The USA maintained control in the third quarter, out-producing Puerto Rico 33-17 to take a 97-51 lead into the fourth quarter.
Lewis got the USA to the century mark on the scoreboard just 23 seconds into the final period and the USA rolled in for the 118-67 victory.
Limiting Puerto Rico to 33.3% shooting from the field, the USA forced 36 Puerto Rico turnovers and the red, white and blue converted those into 44 points. The USA tied a USA U16 single-game record for most steals with 26 (tying the record of 26 versus Argentina on 6/17/17) and outrebounded its opponents 61-48.
“This group is very, very sound defensively. We’ve got some guys that can really do multiple things, they’re versatile defensively and we can create a lot of havoc with our length, our size and our quickness,” said White. “We wanted to disrupt them a little bit and not let them get comfortable and I thought our guys did a good job of just being very, very aggressive and playing defense without fouling so much. We have somethings we can work on, but I was very proud of their defensive effort today.”
For the game, the USA shot 50.5 percent from the field and recorded 29 assists.
“Our 30 assists tell us that we’re playing team ball, we’re playing as a team” said White. “We tried to stress that throughout our practices, during pre-game, and I showed them a Kobe Bryant USA Basketball snippet today, and he talked about how the guys when they play for USA Basketball, they have to not think of themselves on their regular team but think of themselves on this team and figure out how to play together. I think they really locked in on that and understood that and shared the ball a lot.”
In the day’s first game, the Dominican Republic (1-0) handled Chile (0-1) 107-54. The evening’s games will see Argentina facing Canada, and Mexico will meet Brazil in the nightcap.
Assisting White with the 2021 USA U16 National Team are assistant coaches (St. Edward H.S., Ohio) and (Gonzaga College H.S., D.C.).
After playing each of the teams in its group, all eight teams advance to the quarterfinals on Aug. 27. The quarterfinal winners play in the semifinals on Aug. 28. On Aug. 29, the semifinal winners meet in the gold medal game, while the semifinal losers play in the bronze medal game.
The top four finishing teams at the 2021 FIBA Americas U16 Championship will qualify for the 2022 FIBA Men’s U17 World Cup.
A biennial event launched in 2009 and open to athletes 16 years old or younger, the FIBA Americas U16 Championship features eight national teams from North, South and Central America and the Caribbean. The USA Basketball men are now 32-0 in FIBA Americas U16 Championship play and have won the gold medal in all six editions of the tournament since its debut in 2009.