France Succumbs To Pressure Defense By USA U17 Men, 86-50
-- Stanley Johnson, Jahlil Okafor Post Double-Doubles In Win --
July 3, 2012 • Kaunas, Lithuania
The 2012 USA Basketball Men’s U17 World Championship Team (4-0) applied full-court pressure defense from the opening tip and the result was an 86-50 defeat of France (1-3) on Tuesday night at the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship in Kaunas, Lithuania.
Stanley Johnson (Mater Dei H.S. / Fullerton, Calif.) and Jahlil Okafor (Whitney Young H.S. / Chicago, Ill.) came up big for the U.S. with Stanley Johnson contributing 12 point and 10 boards and Okafor posting game-highs of 21 points and 13 rebounds. Additionally, Conner Frankamp (Wichita North H.S. / Wichita, Kan.) scored 12 points; while Justise Winslow (St. John’s School / Houston, Texas) hauled in 10 boards, seven on the offensive end, and tied a FIBA U17 World Championship record for steals with seven.
“I just wanted to be super aggressive on the offensive boards and on the defensive boards,” said Okafor, who had seven offensive rebounds. “Because when Jabari’s (Parker) out, it puts much more pressure on me.”
The Americans, who are assured of advancing to the quarterfinals, will close preliminary play against China (3-1) on July 4 (1:25 EDT). The top four finishing teams from each group will advance to the medal round with the quarterfinals staged on July 6, the semifinals on July 7 and the finals on July 8.
“One of the things that we have is really good depth,” said Don Showalter, USA and Iowa City High School head coach. “When we bring kids off the bench, we don’t lose anything. When you bring guys off the bench you still keep up that pressure and that’s what we wanted to do against France. We held them to 24 points in the first half, which doesn’t really happen very often with a 24-second shot clock. We really played well defensively. We started out the game by setting the tone, which we hadn’t really done in the last couple games. When you can set the tone in the game, you have the other team playing catch-up and I think we’re pretty hard to play catch-up against.”
Utilizing a different line-up each game, Showalter gave Joel Berry (Lake Highland Prep School / Apopka, Fla.) and Winslow their first starting nod, while Stephen Domingo (Saint Ignatius Prep / San Francisco, Calif.), Stanley Johnson and Okafor rounded out the starting five.
“For me starting, that’s not my first priority,” said Berry. “If I come off the bench, that’s fine. He started me tonight and I just tried to do what I always do and that’s to bring the intensity.”
The starters wasted no time in applying intense pressure to France on the defensive end and pushing the ball inside on the offensive end. The result was a 10-2 opening run that featured five points from Okafor and all 10 were due to driving the lane. France adjusted from there and managed to pull to within a point, 14-13, with 2:05 to play in the first quarter.
“France switched defenses a lot,” said Stanley Johnson. “They played a man, a zone, a three-two and a one-three-one. So, they kind of made us play different offenses that we’ve been working on, so it was kind of an adjustment for us. We just had to adjust really quickly and then start playing our basketball again.”
Picking up the pressure from end to end, the USA got a put-back from Johnathan Williams (Southwind H.S. / Memphis, Tenn.) at the 1:07 mark and the U.S. scored five straight points to start the second quarter for a 7-0 run that left the score at 21-13 at 9:03.
France converted on a traditional 3-point play to halt the run. However, that was merely a blip in what would eventually become a 17-3 USA spurt and with 5:56 to play before the half the Americans had the game in hand, 31-16. By the midway break the USA was up 40-24.
Coming out of the locker room strong, the U.S. reeled off 10 consecutive points before France finally connected on a shot, a three by Olivier Yao-Delon, who would single-handedly score every point for his side in an 8-2 spurt. However, France finally surrendered the battle as the U.S. again scored 10 straight that extended to the fourth quarter and with the scoreboard showing 62-32, there was no doubt as to the eventual victor. In all the USA outscored France 20-8 in the third period and 26-18 in the fourth for the eventual 86-50 final.
“France is a very good team from the inside-out,” said Anya. “They have shooters, they have bigs. They’re strong. They play hard. They have my respect and I know they have coach’s respect, too. They came out here, played hard and did the best they could.”
Tyus Jones (Apple Valley H.S. / Apple Valley, Minn.) dished out five of the USA’s 14 assists and also contributed eight points and four steals; BeeJay Anya (DeMatha Catholic H.S. / Gaithersburg, Md.) notched eight points, four rebounds, three blocks and two steals, while Kendrick Nunn (Simeon Career Academy / Chicago, Ill.) had seven points and four caroms.
The USA outrebounded France 61-44, outscored France 54-30 in the paint and 39-17 off the bench. Additionally, the U.S. had 24 second-chance points to France’s four. The U.S. also forced 30 turnovers and only committed 16.
Petr Cornelie scored a team-best 14 points and Paul Rigot had 11 for France.
Dakari Johnson (Montverde Academy, Fla. / Brooklyn, N.Y.) slipped and suffered a groing strain with 3:11 to play before halftime and did not return. Jabari Parker (Simeon Career Academy / Chicago, Ill.) had a sore foot and was held out of the line-up for precautionary measures.
In today’s other Group A games, China (3-1) survived a last-second 3-point attempt that hit the rim on the buzzer to hold off the Czech Republic (1-3) 71-68, while Egypt (0-4) succumbed to Australia (3-1) in double-overtime, 88-73. In Group B games, Croatia (4-0) remained undefeated after edging host Lithuania (1-3) 82-78, Argentina (2-2) defeated South Korea (0-4) 106-59 and Spain (3-1) upended Canada (2-2) 83-62.
“We’re much better now than we were when we first came over here,” added Showalter. “We have players playing different positions than they might play in their high school or their AAU team, but they’re all fitting in really well. The more we keep playing, the more chemistry we get. I felt we got a lot of confidence because of the fact that we started out really good defensively and I think that gives us a lot of confidence.”
The USA is the defending championship at the U17 Worlds, which run through July 8 and feature 17-and-under national teams from 12 nations.
The inaugural FIBA U17 World Championship for Men was held in 2010. The USA captured gold with a perfect 8-0 record and former University of Florida standout Brad Beal was tabbed MVP of the tournament. The event is held every other year (2012, 2014, etc.). The USA qualified for this event by winning the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship.