Russia’s 3-Point Shooting Dooms USA U19 Team To 79-74 Loss
July 8, 2011 • Riga, Latvia
The team totals for 3-point shooting told the story of the USA’s (5-2) 79-74 loss to Russia (4-3) Friday evening as the defending champion USA U19 World Championship Team saw its gold medal hopes come to an end with the quarterfinals loss to Russia.
All that really needs to be pointed to is 3-point shooting. Russia made 12 of its 29 tries from beyond the 3-point arc while the USA was 0-for-9 from 3point.
“We had 18 offensive rebounds, but again that 3-point shot is a great equalizer,” said USA and George Mason head coach Paul Hewitt. “We went 0-for-9, they went 12-for-29. That’s a pretty tough margin to overcome. I think given the difference there, I thought our guys battled and gave us a chance even though we were outshot from the 3-point line 12 to zip.”
Jeremy Lamb (Connecticut/Norcross, Ga.) paced the USA offensive effort scoring 21 points, Joe Jackson (Memphis/Memphis, Tenn.) scored 14, and center Meyers Leonard (Illinois/Robinson, Ill.) accounted for 13 points, while adding five rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.
It became evident early that the 3-pointer was going to be Russia ally.
The United States struggled to defend Russia’s shooters right from the start. Russia’s Dmitry Kulagin torched the U.S. in the first quarter, hitting four 3-pointers while tallying 14 points as Russia charged out ahead 25-18 after the first quarter of play.
The U.S. pulled within two points, 32-30, with 3:46 left in the second period following a Lamb basket, but Russian guard Alexander Varnakov connected on back-to-back 3-pointers and Kulagin added a dunk with :01 second remaining to push Russia ahead 40-30 at halftime. Russia shot 8-of-18 from 3-point in the first half and was just 8-of-15 from two-point.
The Americans battled to get back into the contest and stepping up its defense as a team, Lamb shouldered the USA offense in the third quarter. Not allowing Russia a made 3-pointer in the third period, the U.S. outscored Russia 23-12 and charged back to grab a 53-52 lead after three quarters.
Lamb came out of the locker room on fire. Scoring the USA’s first 10 points of the quarter, Leonard completed an old fashioned three-point play to even the score 49-49 with 2:03 left in the period. Lamb scored off an offensive rebound with 1:23 to go in the quarter to push the U.S. into the lead for the first time since the game’s opening minute. After both teams traded a pair of free throws, the U.S. entered the final quarter leading by a point.
The U.S. trailed 63-62 following a strong drive for two by Tony Mitchell (North Texas/Dallas, Texas), but Russia’s Vladislav Trushkin dropped consecutive 3-pointers to lift Russia out in front 69-64 with 3:40 to play.
Another Mitchell power move to the basket closed the gap to 71-68 with 58 seconds remaining in the contest, then, with the shot clock about to expire after some sticky defense by the U.S., Russia's Trushkin threw up a deep desperation 3-pointer that found nothing but net to up his team’s lead to 74-68 with 32.5 seconds showing on the scoreboard.
The U.S. missed a 3-point attempt at the other end and with time running out was forced to foul Russia. The USA’s hope for a miraculous comeback ended as Russia sank 5-of-8 tries from the charity stripe in the final 24 seconds.
“We tried to play through Jeremy (Lamb)," Hewitt said about his team's offense. I thought in the third quarter he had it going a little bit and got us the lead. I thought in the fourth quarter we were getting some good shots. One of the things I was a little disappointed in my team was in the first half we missed some shots that we thought were pretty easy shots and we hung our heads a little bit defensively and that’s how they got going from the 3-point line. We got some good looks, I’m sure if we go back and look at the tape we had some good looks they just didn’t fall for us today.”
The U.S., done in by its 0-for-9 3-point shooting, shot 43.3 percent for the game, while Russia shot slightly better, making 46.0 percent of its shots.
The U.S. outrebounded Russia 40-37, and recorded fewer turnovers, making just 10 while forcing Russia into 14.
The U.S. now moves into the consolation semifinals bracket, and will meet 5-2 Poland, 87-75 losers to Lithuania earlier Friday, in a 7:30 a.m. (EDT) game. The USA-Poland winner advances into Sunday’s game to determine 5th and 6th places, while the loser will play in the game for 7th and 8th places.
“We weren’t alert at all as a team; we weren’t talkative on the defensive end, we weren’t communicating as a team and that forced us into a loss” stated Mitchell, who finished with four points, two blocks and a USA high seven rebounds. “We just have to go out there and play. That’s really about it, that’s all we have to do, go out there and play. Just be mentally strong, that’s all we’re lacking right now – just the mental toughness and just get the W.”
Assisting Hewitt on the U.S. sidelines are collegiate head coaches Randy Bennett of St. Mary’s College and Cliff Warren of Jacksonville University.