USA Defeats Argentina To Advance To Gold Medal Game
June 19, 2012 • Sao Sebastiáo do Paraiso, Brazil
Utilizing its superior depth and balanced scoring, the USA handled Argentina (2-2) and claimed a 107-72 victory. The win, which featured all 12 U.S. players scoring including seven in double figures, improved the USA’s record to 4-0 and advanced the Americans into the FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Men gold medal game.
The gold medal contest will be a rematch of Monday’s USA-Brazil game, a contest the USA walked away with an 83-64 victory. Brazil advanced to the gold medal game after handing Canada its first loss of the tournament by a 66-62 margin.
“What I have told the guys is whatever has happened up to this point in time against any team we’ve played really doesn’t mean anything. So if you’re playing tomorrow for a gold medal, regardless if it is Brazil or Canada, you can expect it’s going to be a hard fought game because you know what, they’re going to be playing for the same thing we’re playing for,” said USA and University of Florida head coach Billy Donovan.
The U.S. offense, which registered a tournament high 107 points on 54.8 percent shooting overall, was paced by 15 points from Julius Randle (Prestonwood Christian Academy/ McKinney, Texas), Rasheed Sulaimon (Strake Jesuit College Prep/Houston, Texas) added 14 points, Shaq Goodwin (Southwest DeKalb H.S./Decatur, Ga.) tossed in 13, Rodney Purvis (Upper Room Christian/Raleigh, N.C.) and Jarnell Stokes (University of Tennessee/Memphis, Tenn.) each accounted for 11 points, and Nathaniel Britt, II (Gonzaga H.S., D.C./Upper Marlboro, Md.) and Jake Layman (King Phillip Regional H.S./Wrentham, Mass.) were credited with 10 points apiece.
“Coach Donovan told me if they play off me to just to shoot the jump shot so I started shooting jump shot and made a couple, which made it harder for them to guard me,” said USA leading scorer Randle. The USA outrebounded Argentina 44-27 as every member of the U.S. team registered at least two rebounds.
In a fast-paced game from the opening tip, the U.S. got points from Purvis, Jerami Grant (DeMatha Catholic/Bowie, Md.) and Britt to take a 5-2 lead. A pair of baskets from Marcus Smart (Marcus H.S./Flower Mound, Texas) launched the USA on a 10-3 run and a 3-pointer by Sulaimon capped the run as the USA jetted out in front of Argentina by 10, 15-5.
Leading 27-17 entering the second quarter, the two teams traded baskets back-and-forth and with 1:53 remaining before half, the U.S. lead was still 10, 46-36.
Goodwin stepped up and completed back-to-back 3-point plays, and added another free throw to push the U.S. lead to 53-36, and at halftime the Americans were enjoying a 53-38 advantage.
A pair of baskets from Randle and two baskets from Britt greeted the Argentines at the start of the second half as the U.S. upped its advantage to 61-40. Argentina closed the deficit to 15 (61-46), but a drive by Grant and an offensive putback by Stokes ended the threat and the USA sailed on in for the 35-point win.
“I thought in the second quarter we got a little bit three happy there; we were up 10 or 12 points and I thought we took some quick, ill-advised threes,” stated Donovan. “I thought in the second half we really played well. We got the ball inside, I think our first five or six possession we scored on, and we got stops and the lead went from 15 to 20 pretty quickly, then we extended it to 30.
“Our defense was a lot better in the second half and we shared the ball. I thought in the second half we did a really good job of establishing our post people, getting the ball inside and we physically were able to wear them down.”
In the hunt for the USA’s sixth FIBA Americas U18 gold medal, USA forward Grant knows what it will take to win it all. “We’re going to have to play the hardest we’ve played since we’ve been here, definitely. I feel like we will come out and play hard. Everybody here is dedicated to winning the gold medal and I feel like we can do it.”
In the day’s other games, the Puerto Rico (1-3) nipped U.S. Virgin Islands (1-2) 71-68, while Mexico (1-3) earned its first after outlasting Colombia (1-3) 85-82.
Eight teams are competing in the 2012 U18 Americas zone qualifier, including the USA, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Mexico, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. The U.S., Canada, Brazil and Argentina each earned a qualifying berth in next summer’s 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship.
In the hunt for a sixth gold medal, USA men's teams are 38-2 overall in previous FIBA Americas U18 Championships (formerly known as the Junior World Championship Qualifier), and have captured gold in 1990, 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010, while winning a silver in 2008 and a bronze medal in 2002.
Serving as USA assistant coaches are Gonzaga University head coach Mark Few and Shaka Smart from Virginia Commonwealth University.