Aug. 18, 2011
SHENZHEN, China – The USA men’s basketball squad (5-0) survived its first test of the 2011 World University Games and rode a 10-0 run that stretched from the end of the third quarter into the first two minutes of the fourth period to an eventual hard-fought 94-84 win over Israel (2-3) on Thursday at the Universiade Main Gym. Notre Dame forward Tim Abromaitis (Unionville, Conn.) came off the bench to score nine points and haul down three rebounds in 19 minutes of action for Team USA.
The point and minute totals matched tournament-high figures for Abromaitis, who also had one blocked shot. He shot 4-of-8 from the field, including 1-for-3 from three-point range. The Fighting Irish forward also tallied nine points in Wednesday’s win over Finland.
Trailing by two points at halftime, 43-41, the USA battled back from its first deficit at a quarter break to remain undefeated. As group Group D’s No.1 seed, the USA will take on Lithuania (4-1), the No. 2 seed from Group C, in the quarterfinals at 6 p.m. (all times listed are China Standard Time, which is +12 hours from Eastern Time) on Aug. 20, following a day off for all teams on Aug. 19. The semifinals are scheduled for Aug. 21, and the finals will be played Aug. 22.
“Anytime you can get into a close game and win it, it really helps your team,” said USA and Purdue University head coach Matt Painter. “The game of basketball will humble you at times. I thought there was no difference between the team we beat by 60 and the one we beat by 10. It shows that on any given day, you’d better be ready and you’d better have that focus. Hopefully this close game will help our guys going into the medal round.”
JaMychal Green (Alabama) led the USA for a second-straight game with 16 points, while Marcus Denmon (Missouri) tallied 13 points, five rebounds and four steals. Trevor Mbakwe (Minnesota) finished with a 12-point, 13-rebound double-double to go with three blocked shots and John Jenkins (Vanderbilt) added 12 points.
The USA opened the game with a 7-0 spurt as Mbakwe grabbed his first of five offensive boards and converted on a three-point play, followed by four straight points from Orlando Johnson (UC Santa Barbara). Israel hung within striking distance and closed to two points, 18-16 on two made free throws at 3:50. From there, the teams traded baskets, and a 3-pointer from Denmon at 41.0 seconds helped the USA take a 27-23 lead after the first 10 minutes. Mbakwe, who drew six fouls from the Israeli big men, as did JaMychal Green, landed Israel’s starting forward Samer Jasser in foul trouble in the first few minutes of the game, and Jasser played just four minutes in the contest.
Israel had an answer for every U.S. score in the first five minutes of the second quarter and took its first lead with a three-pointer at 4:37. The lead changed hands four more times in the stanza, and Israel had a three-point advantage with 48 seconds to go. Denmon was fouled on the last shot attempt of the first half and sank one-of-two free throws to cut the margin to two points, 43-41, at halftime.
“Israel came out and played really hard in the first half,” said Abromaitis. “They hit some shots and were able to lock us down a little bit more than other teams have been able to. That helped put them ahead in the first half. Luckily we were able to turn it around in the second half.”
Behind four points from Mbakwe and two from Darius Miller (Kentucky), the USA tied the score at 45-45 at 8:36 and recaptured the lead, 47-45, when Mbakwe made two from the line, but Israel fought back with a 5-0 spurt to lead 50-47 at 5:52. The two teams were even once again, 53-53, with a three-point play from JaMychal Green at 4:52. Green’s points were the start of a six unanswered U.S. points, and the Americans had a three-point 56-53 lead at 4:03. Israel twice cut it two one point, but another bucket from JaMychal Green ignited another six straight U.S. points to put the USA up 70-62 at the third quarter intermission.
The run stretched into the fourth quarter, and the USA led 74-62 at 8:40 when Mbakwe slammed home a USA miss. Israel never was able to make up the difference, although it came within eight points of the USA in the final 10 minutes, and the USA held on for a 94-84 victory.
Israel was led by 20 points from Anton Shoutvin and 19 points from Jared Mintz.
“I don’t think there was anything in particular that made us play differently (in the second half),” added Abromaitis. “A couple of guys kind of took it upon themselves to pick up the energy and play good defense. Marcus (Denmon) got a couple steals that were huge for us in the second half. Maybe that was something that sparked us, but I think it was a little bit of everyone stepping up and trying to play a little bit harder to get it done.”
Cuonzo Martin of the University of Tennessee and Brad Stevens of Butler University are serving as assistant coaches for the 2011 USA Men’s World University Games Team.
Also reaching the medal quarterfinals were Group C’s No. 1 seed Russia (5-0), the No. 2 seed out of Group D, Finland (2-3). The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds from Group A and Group B will be known following tonight’s final games.
The World University Games is a multi-sport competition open to men and women who are between the ages of 17 and 24, who currently or have been within the past year, a student at a college or university.
The United States, which has claimed a medal in every World University Games since beginning play in 1965, has captured a record 13 golds, three silvers and three bronze medals in the 19 WUGs in which a USA Basketball squad has competed, and the U.S. owns a 131-8 record in the event.