U.S On Verge Of World Cup Qualification After Win Over Colombia
Langston Galloway and David Stockton played starring roles as the USA Men’s World Cup Qualifying Team delivered an 88-81 win over Colombia on Monday night in Washington, D.C. to move within reach of 2023 FIBA Men’s World Cup.
After an 84-69 loss to Brazil on Friday night, Head Coach Jim Boylen’s squad was hungry to right the ship and end the window on a positive note.
From the opening whistle, his team played with pace and intensity and took control of the game.
After struggling to make shots three nights ago against Brazil, the U.S. saw its shooting percentage improve against Colombia. Thanks to some good ball movement, the Americans frequently found themselves with quality looks from beyond the 3-point arc early in the game, and they took advantage by knocking down those opportunities. As a team, the U.S. started off shooting 5-of-9 from 3-point range as it jumped out to a 19-8 lead midway through the opening quarter.
Colombia, led by top scorers Michaell Jackson with 25 points and Romario Roque with 24, was able to start chipping away at the deficit. The Colombians used second-chance opportunities to overcome their slow shooting start, and by halftime, the U.S. lead was just 47-41.
Galloway made his presence known in the fourth quarter. He scored on three consecutive U.S. possessions: a 3-pointer, a drive and spin move to the basket for a layup, and then another 3-pointer.
Galloway’s standout play opened a 77-65 lead for the Americans with five minutes left to go in the game, and then it was another teammate’s turn to deliver the dagger. By scoring seven points in less than 80 seconds, Stockton brought the lead to 84-69 and helped his team match its largest advantage of the game.
From there, the U.S. was able to close out the final minutes of the game for the win.
For the second consecutive game, Galloway led the U.S. in scoring, finishing with 23 points. He was a major factor on the defensive end as well with two blocks and one steal.
Boylen noted how important it is to have a FIBA veteran like Galloway that the team can turn to when trying to close out games during these qualifying windows.
“Langston’s professionalism is a big part of this,” Boylen said. “So although maybe he doesn’t go to the World Cup, he’s one of 297 guys since 1992 that have worn that (USA Basketball) jersey. He takes a lot of pride in that; we take a lot of pride in that. Nobody’s ever going to take that away from him.”
Following this performance, Galloway is now USA Basketball’s career points leader (119 points) in World Cup qualifying since the format was amended in 2017.
“You have to look at the small victories,” Galloway said of his time with the team. “To wear ‘USA’ on the front of my chest and to able to represent your last name — to have ‘Galloway’ on the jersey — that’s big. I can tell my kids, my grandkids. And I have pictures, I have a lot of memories. They won’t know where the game is at — they’ll just see dad played for USA.”
Stockton, who was driving hard to the basket all night long, also finished with 23 points to go along with three assists.
Elijah Pemberton, who did not play in most Friday’s game against Brazil, chipped in across the board with 10 points. He also came up with one steal and one block.
The win came despite Colombia having a significant advantage in offensive rebounds and steals — two areas that Boylen emphasized with his team before the game.
“We’re thankful for the win,” Boylen said. “We needed to respond after the Brazil game. It bothered our group. I thought we came out in the first quarter and set the tone of how we would like to play. We really felt that two things were important in this game; their ability to steal the ball and get into transition, and their ability to offensive rebound the ball — those were things we talked about. They’re elite at both those things.
“We won the game (despite those two things being in their favor) thanks to Langston and the guys that have been with us before. They delivered and I’m really happy for them.”
Although the win over Colombia wasn’t enough to secure the U.S. its World Cup berth, it puts the team in a great spot. There’s one final qualifying window still to come in February, when the U.S. will travel to South America for a pair of road games. A win in either of those games would qualify the U.S. for the tournament, but even with a pair of losses, there are other scenarios that would still clinch the World Cup berth for the United States.