USA Men Lose to Mexico 97-88 in FIBA World Cup Qualifying Play
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The USA Basketball Men’s World Cup Qualifying Team (1-1) could not overcome a 31-12 third-quarter surge from Mexico (1-1), and the USA lost to the host country 97-88 in FIBA World Cup Qualifying play on Monday night in Chihuahua, Mexico.
Mexico shot 17-of-35 from 3-point in the game, including a game-high 27 points from Orlando Mendez, who shot 7-of-11 from behind the arc. The USA, which shot 73.3% in the first half (22-30 FGs), cooled off to just 31.0% from the field during the second half (9-29 FGs) and committed 14 turnovers compared to Mexico’s five turnovers.
“Well, you got to give Mexico credit,” said USA head coach Jim Boylen. “Obviously, they made shots. They made big plays when they needed it. I thought we fought. I thought we tried. But we didn't have enough defense when we needed it, and that's because of their offense and their shooting.
“We struggled coming out of the half. I thought it was a combination of them (Mexico) executing and making shots and us turning the ball over.”
Isaiah Thomas (free agent/Washington) was the USA’s leading scorer with 21 points and a U.S.-best 10 assists, but Thomas had to leave the game at 6:18 in the fourth quarter after picking up his second technical foul. The USA trailed 82-76 at that point.
The USA worked its way back within three points, 84-81 at 5:03 remaining in the game, but that was as close as the USA would get. The USA’s shooting did not improve, and Mexico shot 7-of-8 from the free throw line down the stretch to seal the win.
BJ Johnson (Lakeland Magic/LaSalle) had 15 points; and Shaq Harrison (Delaware Blue Coats/Tulsa) and Luke Kornet (Maine Celtics/Vanderbilt) each contributed 12 points.
“It's a great experience to be able to play for your country,” Kornet said. “It's definitely difficult losing, especially with the pedigree and everything of USA basketball. But Mexico, they beat us. They played a great game. They deserved to win.”
Mexico jumped ahead 4-0 to start the game, and the lead changed hands seven times in the first quarter. The USA took its first advantage, 9-8 at 6:32, when Thomas made a 3-pointer. Mexico went ahead 17-15 with a score from deep at 3:37, but Brian Bowen II (Iowa Wolves) connected from behind the arc and Johnson made consecutive 3s, and the USA led 24-19 at 1:54. After a score from Mexico, Chasson Randle (free agent/Stanford) and Johnson, who had 10 first-quarter points, added scores for the USA, which led 28-21 heading into the second period.
Mexico came as close as two points, 30-28 at 8:31 in the second quarter after a 3-pointer, but Haywood Highsmith (Delaware Blue Coats/Wheeling) reeled off seven points for the USA, including one basket from deep, and the USA led 37-28 at 6:57. The teams traded baskets, before the USA put together a 10-2 run to lead by 13 points, 55-42 with 47.5 seconds in the period. Mexico, however, made two 3s in the finals 1:25 of the stanza, including a halftime buzzer-beater that made the score 57-48 at the midway point.
The USA scored first in the third quarter, but Mexico made its first of six 3-pointers in the third quarter to launch its game-changing run. Mexico tied the score 64-64 at 5:58 and then outscored the USA 15-5 to head into the final period with a 79-69 margin.
While the USA outrebounded Mexico 39-34, Mexico got 12 offensive boards that resulted in 16 second-chance points, and Mexico also had the edge in points off of turnovers, scoring 15 to the USA’s nine.
Ty Ellis and Othella Harrington served as the USA’s assistant coaches for the November 2021 FIBA World Cup Qualifying Window.
The USA will have two more windows of play in qualifying action, including Puerto Rico (1-1) on Feb. 24 and Mexico on Feb. 27, 2022; and Puerto Rico on July 1 and Cuba (0-2) on July 3, 2022.
The top three finishing teams from each of the four first-round groups will advance to the second round.
The second round also will be played in three windows, including Aug. 22-30, 2022; Nov. 7-15, 2022; and Feb. 20-28, 2023. The three best finishing teams from the two second-round groups and the top fourth-placed team, will qualify out of the Americas zone for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.