U.S. Upset By Mexico In Opening Game of FIBA AmeriCup Play
A late push from the U.S. led by Jeremy Pargo nearly secured the U.S. men an opening day victory Friday in Brazil at the 2022 FIBA AmeriCup.
Pargo fed teammate Craig Sword with an alley-oop pass that finished off a 10-2 U.S. run and vaulted the Americans into a 58-58 tie against Mexico with 6:03 remaining. He hit a pair of 3-pointers after that, each time pulling the U.S. to within three points.
However, it wasn’t enough.
Mexico pulled away for a 73-67 victory in the preliminary round of the tournament against the defending AmeriCup champion and seven-time gold medalists.
Pargo, who was making his AmeriCup debut at age 36, scored a team-high 14 points, hit three 3-pointers and had a team-high six assists.
For Mexico, Paul Stoll scored a game-high 15 points, hit three 3-pointers and had a game-high nine assists. Fabian Jaimes and Daniel Amigo each added 13 points for Mexico.
The U.S., which didn’t lose a game in the 2017 AmeriCup, will face Venezuela in its next Group C game at 12:40 p.m. ET Sunday. A third game follows at 4:40 p.m. ET Monday against Panama. Games are streaming on ESPN+.
A first- or second-place finish in group play, or one of the best two third-place finishes, locks down a spot in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
“I think one thing we’re looking forward to is getting better,” U.S. coach Alex Jensen noted. “As a group, we haven’t had a lot of time together, but this will give opportunities to do just that.”
The U.S. started strong in Friday’s opener at Geraldo Arena in Recife, Brazil, scoring five points in the first two minutes. Norris Cole opened the game with a 3-pointer, the first of his three treys. He finished with 11 points.
Mexico answered with a seven-point run as the Americans were held scoreless for more than two minutes. After Cole’s game-opening shot, the U.S. missed 9-of-10 3-point shots in the opening quarter.
From there, it was a battle. Mexico emerged from both the first and second quarters with one-point leads, 15-14 and 36-35, respectively.
A 15-5 run by Mexico in the third quarter put the U.S. down by 10, 53-43, with 2:29 left in the period. The Americans trailed 56-48 to begin the fourth quarter when a 3 by Cole began a 10-2 run that led to Sword’s tip-in basket on the alley-oop pass from Pargo.
After a Mexico timeout, Amigo put his team ahead 61-58 on a three-point play. The U.S. was unable to catch up after that.
Gary Clark, a 6-foot-6 forward from the Birmingham Squadron who also played for the NBA New Orleans Pelicans last season, was a force on the boards in his USA Basketball debut. He had a game-high 10 defensive rebounds and led the U.S. with 12 overall boards.
Paul D Bowker is a freelance contributor to USAB.com on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.