U.S. Rallies to Clinch Spot In 2023 FIBA Men’s World Cup
It wasn’t easy, but the U.S. is officially headed back to the FIBA Men’s World Cup.
Erasing a 14-point first half deficit, the USA Basketball Men’s World Cup Qualifying Team knocked off a feisty Uruguay 88-77 Thursday at Antel Arena in Montevideo, Uruguay, clinching first place in FIBA Americas Group F.
The victory sends the Americans (9-2) to the 32-team 2023 FIBA Men’s World Cup from Aug. 25-Sept. 10 in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia. The U.S. will play all of its games in Manila. The World Cup is the next stage in qualifying for the Olympics, where the U.S. has won the last four gold medals. The 2024 Olympics are in Paris.
Langston Galloway, in his fifth World Cup Qualifying window, scored 11 straight U.S. points in the fourth quarter and led all scorers with 21 points. Xavier Moon had 17 points and six assists, while Deonte Burton and Reggie Perry had 11 and Craig Sword 10 for the Americans. Combined with a 105-71 victory Aug. 25 in Las Vegas, the Americans swept the two games from Uruguay in qualifying.
“Couldn't be prouder of the group of guys that we have here,” said Galloway, the career leading scorer for USA Basketball in World Cup qualifying. “I'm just thankful for the opportunity that I'm getting to play and represent (with) the United States across my chest.
“And then all the guys that have been a part of this journey with me. This is my fifth window, there's been six windows, and it's been a long 18 months so I'm really thankful to be here, be a part of this and just excited that we accomplished the task at hand, which was qualifying for the World Cup.”
Augustin Ubal paced four Uruguayans in double figures with 18 points. The loss eliminated Uruguay (5-6) from advancing.
The U.S. travels to Brazil (7-4) on Sunday for its final qualifying game. Brazil, which lost a thriller to Puerto Rico 92-90 on Thursday, won the previous matchup 94-79 on Nov. 11 in Washington, D.C.
This entire process has required an effort from many players for U.S. coach Jim Boylen, who has been on the bench throughout this qualifying tournament. The U.S. has used 52 players — primarily from the NBA G League — in the six qualifying windows, with nine starting combinations. Fittingly, Thursday’s triumph didn’t come easy, but with several key contributors.
“We had high-character, hard-working guys,” said Boylen, also noting the seven assistant coaches in the qualifying tournament. “They bought into our system, how we need to play. I've said this before, we're playing their game (international rules). And we have to try to play it better than them and our guys bought in and we're just really thankful. We've got another game that we need to get and we'll get ready for Brazil.”
Thanks to an early five-point play — Bruno Fitipaldo hit a corner 3 at the same time American center Jay Huff was called for a foul, leading to a Luciano Parodi layup — Uruguay led 13-3 with 3:55 left in the first quarter, prompting Boylen to take a timeout. Included in that early poor play was four U.S. turnovers. A fifth turnover and two free throws boosted Uruguay’s lead to 15-3 before Moon connected on the first U.S. 3-pointer of the night with 2:26 left in the opening 10 minutes.
Still, it was a struggle in the first quarter as Uruguay led 18-7, thanks in large part to an 11-3 rebounding advantage and the U.S. making just 2-of-9 shots. Uruguay also scored 11 points off six American turnovers.
The second quarter was a virtual stalemate, although the U.S. did play somewhat better but still faced a 41-29 deficit at halftime. The Americans were outrebounded 17-5, including having just one offensive board. No U.S. player had more than five points at the break.
Following a halftime regroup, the U.S. scored the first seven points of the third quarter to pull to within 43-38 on a Huff dunk with 7:38 left. The invigorated play, led by the defense, continued and the U.S. finally tied the game 49-49 on a Perry lay-in with 3:43 to go in the third. Dusty Hannahs gave the U.S. its first lead since 2-0 on a free throw with 3:13 remaining.
Moon was a playmaker in the third quarter, scoring seven points and dishing out his first three assists of the game. The U.S., limited to seven points in the opening 10 minutes, scored 30 points in the third quarter and took a 59-58 lead into the fourth.
“Xavier has a confidence and a burst,” Boylen said. “He’s a speedy guard who can make shots.”
Fouls came frequently early in the final quarter, with both teams in the bonus in the first three minutes. Fortunately for the U.S., which missed two of its first seven attempts from the line to begin the fourth, free throws did not become the deciding factor.
Instead, it was Galloway, who went on a personal 11-1 run with back-to-back layups, a four-point play and another 3-pointer to put the U.S. up 76-67 with 5:03 to go. That allowed the Americans to breathe and then put away Uruguay.
“We're so thankful for him and what he's done for USA (Basketball) and how he's played, how he's led,” Boylen said of Galloway. “And we've just had great guys on every team. David Stockton, John Jenkins, Justin Jackson, Eric Mika, guys that care, guys that play hard. It means the world to them. They have USA across their chests and come in and practice. I mean, they gave up their All-Star break for this window. Guys have families and relationships that they put on hold to come play for us in this window. People talk about the basketball. It takes courage to learn a new style of basketball and to play it and to play it together and play for each other. I couldn't be prouder of these guys.”