USA U16 Men Take Down Argentina 102-81 As Seven Score In Double Digits
June 22, 2011 • Cancun, Mexico
Clips from the first half of the USA - Argemntina game
Jabari Parker (Simeon H.S. / Chicago, Ill.) led the way for the second time in as many games with a game-high 21 points as the 2011 USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team (2-0) struck down Argentina (1-1) 102-81 at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship on Wednesday night at Poliforum Benito Juarez in Cancun, Mexico. With the win, the U.S. is assured of the top seed out of Group A and a berth in the medal round.
In all, seven players scored in double digits for the U.S. and all 12 team members put points on the board. In addition to Parker, Kendrick Nunn (Simeon H.S. / Chicago, Ill.) scored 14 points and grabbed seven boards after sitting out last night due to a slight ankle sprain; Larry Austin (Lamphier H.S. / Springfield, Ill.) pitched in 11 points; Jahlil Okafor (Whitney Young H.S. / Chicago, Ill.) put up a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds; while Tyus Jones (Apple Valley H.S. / Apple Valley, Minn.), Theo Pinson (Oakridge Military Academy / Greensboro, N.C.) and Aaron Gordon (Archbishop Mitty H.S. / San Jose, Calif.) contributed 10 points apiece.
“Our depth is tremendous,” said USA U16 National Team head coach Don Showalter (Mid-Prairie High School, Iowa). “We always tell them ‘it’s not about me, it’s about we.’ When you’re representing USA Basketball, nobody cares how many points anybody gets. It’s just a matter of USA Basketball winning the game in the end. You saw a lot of unselfish play throughout the game. We had a lot of assists tonight. We moved the ball around very, very well. When you get seven players in double figures, the ball has to be moving from one player to another.”
Argentina kept up with the North Americans to start the contest and with 4:35 to play in the first quarter, the game was knotted at 12-all. Spurred by six consecutive points from Parker, the U.S. took off on a 10-2 run and pulled away 22-14. However, Argentina was not finished yet. Merlo Alvaro hit three straight 3-pointers to move his squad out front, ending the first period up 23-22.
“He got a hot hand, but we just had to sharpen up our defense,” said Jones, who dished out seven assists. “We let it slip a little bit. Coach got on us about that, of course. But, we just had to tune some things up a little bit.”
The U.S. clamped down on defense, which ignited its offense and by 7:24 the red, white and blue was back on top for good, 33-25. Continuing to pressure the South Americans, the United States strung together an 11-4 run and after a fast-breaking layup by Jones, Argentina called for time at 3:34. Coming out of the strategy session, the U.S. forced Argentina into a bad shot, got a 3-pointer from Parker and with three minutes to play before half the lead was 47-29. By halftime the USA was still up by 18 points, 52-34.
Argentina mounted a comeback attempt, closing to within 11points, 55-44, at the 6:02 mark.
Gordon, who was hampered by foul trouble and played just 4:40 in the first half, came back in and immediately scored off his own miss, helping the U.S. get back on track. Parker followed with a bucket and after an Argentina free throw, Okafor completed a 3-point play to extend the lead to 62-45. At 2:38 Argentina put up its final points of the period with two from the line to make it a 15-point game, 66-51. However, the USA posted eight straight points to go up 74-51 with 10 minutes to play and deflate any upset hopes that Argentina may have been harboring.
“The key to our victory is our defense,” said Nunn. “Even though they got runs, we came back with our runs. We did good offensively and that comes from our defense.”
The U.S., which finished with 17 steals on 21 Argentine turnovers and also had seven blocks, scored 66 of its points in the paint, got 25 off of turnovers and 45 on the fast break. On the other end, Argentina scored just 12 points off of the USA’s 20 turnovers, had 40 in the paint and 11 on the fast break.
In addition to their scoring effort, Pinson had six steals and Gordon and Pinson grabbed nine and eight rebounds, respectively.
Stanley Johnson (Mater Dei H.S. / Fullerton, Calif.) suffered a fracture-dislocation of his left second metacarpal at 4:03 in the first quarter and is out for the remainder of the tournament.
“It’s really disappointing,” said Johnson. “It was a bad play. It happens in basketball. I’m hoping to recover fast and see what I can do for the rest of the year.”
“We lose a lot of defense,” said Austin regarding Johnson’s injury. “He brings intensity to the table. Knowing he can get to the basket, and his defense, we’re really going to miss him.”
Alvaro, who scored 13 points in the first half, finished as Argentina’s leading scorer with 15 on the night.
In other Group B action, Brazil (1-1) cruised past Costa Rica (0-2) 92-53. Group A games saw Puerto Rico (2-0) hit 7-of-8 from the line in the final 35 seconds to edge Canada (1-1) 90-86, and Chile (1-1) dropped host Mexico (0-2) 80-54.
The fourth quarter was a more even affair as the U.S. sailed in for the win.
The U.S. closes preliminary round play against Costa Rica on June 23 (3:00 p.m. EDT). Semifinals are slated for June 24 and the finals will be played on June 25.
The FIBA Americas U16 Championship runs through June 25 and is a qualifying tournament for the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship. The top three finishing teams from FIBA Americas will advance to next summer’s U17 Worlds, scheduled for June 29 - July 12 in Lithuania.
Players eligible for this team must be U.S. citizens born on or after Jan. 1, 1995.
Showalter is being assisted over the next two years by Rich Gray (St. Louis Eagles AAU, Mo.) and Mike Jones (DeMatha High School, Md.).