USA Concludes Third World Cup Qualifying Window With Win Over Cuba
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Xavier Munford scored a game-high 24 points to lead the USA Basketball Men’s World Cup Qualifying Team to a victory over Cuba 87-64 on Monday at Coliseo de la Ciudad Deportiva in Havana, Cuba. The victory concluded the third qualifying window as the USA advances to the second round of the Americas Qualifiers with a 5-1 overall record.
“It feels amazing to come out here and get a win in Cuba,” Munford said. “It’s July 4 and there is no better feeling than getting a win tonight. Cuba came out with a great effort and made us work for it, they are strong guys. We played well, we executed, we took care of the ball and played USA style of basketball.”
The opening frame action was a tightly contested affair, that featured a slow start for the U.S., and saw Cuba leading the game 16-14 by the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Munford helped change the USA’s fate, sparking two critical runs which aided the U.S. in building a lead that carried it through the rest of the game.
The first run (14-2) came in the first 2:55 of the quarter, giving the U.S. a 28-18. Late, in five minutes of game time, the U.S. went on an 11-4 run, expanding the lead and building confidence.
“We lost the first quarter, they held us to 14 points,” USA head coach Jim Boylen said. “I thought we responded in the second. We just kept grinding. In these games, you have to keep playing and keep trying to play the right way.”
The second half of the game saw the Cubans remain competitive, but the U.S. was too balanced to allow a comeback. Including Munford, five Americans scored at least 10 points. Justin Jackson followed his 26 points against Puerto Rico with 13 against Cuba. John Jenkins had 12 points, all coming from four 3-pointers. Will Davis II and Langston Galloway each had 10 points, respectively.
Overall, the USA shot 65% on two-point field goals, an area where Munford went 7-for-7 in the game. Munford’s shooting (10-of-12) tied the USA World Cup Qualifying Team record for most made field goals in a game with Cameron Reynolds (10 vs. Panama on 2/22/19). Doing so off the bench, Munford outscored the Cuban reserves himself, 24-22.
Three qualifying windows remain for the USA. Now in Group F, along with Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Uruguay, the U.S. will need to place in the top three of the group to be guaranteed a spot in the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
Until the next qualifying window, the Americans will enjoy the victory on their Independence Day.
“It’s emotional to play on the Fourth of July,” Boylen explained. “It’s emotional to be here with this group of guys with USA across our chest. It’s a big day and we are thankful for this moment, together.”