U.S. Falls In AmeriCup Semifinals 82-73 To Argentina
The hopes of a repeat AmeriCup championship for the U.S. ended in Saturday’s semifinals against Argentina.
Argentina went on an 8-3 run in the final two minutes to help secure an 82-73 victory as time ran out on the Americans and their three-game win streak that had begun last Monday with an 88-58 win over Panama.
U.S. guard Norris Cole, who scored 20 points in a quarterfinal win over Puerto Rico, scored a team-high 18 points against Argentina and heated up in the fourth quarter with a strong performance.
“I tried to do everything I could to try to help the team win,” Cole said. “This is a good learning experience for our team. We’ll learn from it.”
Zylan Cheatham added 10 points and a game-high eight rebounds. Jeremy Pargo had a game-high eight assists to go along with eight points.
Cole and Frank Mason each hit a pair of 3-pointers.
The U.S., which had been seeking its eighth gold medal, will instead play for a bronze medal in its final game at 4:10 p.m. ET Sunday at Geraldão Arena in Recife, Brazil.
Unlike its previous three AmeriCup wins in which the U.S. averaged 14 3-pointers, the Americans struggled from deep Saturday. The U.S. hit just one 3-pointer in the opening quarter, another two in the second quarter and wound up with eight.
The Americans also struggled to contain Argentina’s inside game led by Gabriel Deck, a 6-foot-6 forward who played two seasons in the NBA with Oklahoma City. He scored a tournament-high 30 points for Argentina, hitting 12-of-13 free throws and 9-of-13 from the field. He is the tournament’s leading scorer with 107 points in five games.
The bruising physical play resulted in 24 U.S. fouls and 29 free-throws attempts for Argentina.
“Our bad offense led to some bad fouls defensively,” USA head coach Alex Jensen said. “I think it’s just a matter of being in the right position and showing your hands and flailing them out. It’s something we’ve talked about most every day since we’ve been together.
“Coming in, a lot of our guys … it’s their first time playing international game. It’s different.”
And while a parade of trips to the free-throw line helped Argentina, the U.S. got there for just 10 free throws.
“Offensively, we kind of got stagnant,” Jensen noted. “So it was harder to get fouls on our end.”
Still, the U.S. almost pulled out a fourth consecutive victory.
The U.S. fought back to tie the score, 61-61, less than three minutes into the final quarter and Cole twice put the U.S. in front. A Cole 3-pointer gave the Americans a 64-63 lead and he drove powerfully to the hoop for a basket and a 66-65 lead with 5:12 remaining.
Soon after that, Stephen Zimmerman fouled out and Argentina took advantage. A 3-pointer by Nicolás Laprovittola put Argentina in front by six points, 74-68, with 2:49 left and the U.S. didn’t get closer than four points after that.
“Credit to Argentina,” Jensen said. “Free throws and offensive rebounds were a big part of it.”
The U.S. will go after its ninth AmeriCup medal in Sunday’s game. The Americans have won seven gold medals and one silver medal.
Paul D Bowker is a freelance contributor to USAB.com on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.