Aug. 20, 2011
SHENZHEN, China – Plagued by ice-cold shooting, including 0-of-14 from 3-point in the second half, the USA Men’s World University Games Team (5-1) fell to Lithuania (5-1) 76-74 in the quarterfinals of the 2011 World University Games on Saturday night (August 20) at the Universiade Main Gym in Shenzhen, China.
After battling back from as many as eight points down in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 74-74 with just under two minutes remaining, the USA missed its last five shot attempts as Lithuania sank two free throws to secure the win.
“I thought our guys came out and gave a good effort,” said USA and Purdue University head mentor Matt Painter. “Lithuania was a little bit quicker to the basketball. They outrebounded us by about six. If you can pinpoint one area, probably the loose balls and a couple of those long rebounds probably ended up being the key to the game. That was something that we talked about. You got to give Lithuania credit. They did a good job of running down some long rebounds and being able to get the loose balls and in my opinion that was the difference.”
The USA will play Romania (3-3) at 8:30 p.m. (8:30 a.m. Eastern Time) on Aug. 21, with the winner advancing to the 5th/6th place game.
In a game that featured 13 lead changes and eight tied scores, John Jenkins (Vanderbilt/ Hendersonville, Tenn.) finished with 17 points to lead the Americans, followed by 16 points from Ashton Gibbs (Pittsburgh/Scoth Plains, N.J.), who was 6-of-6 from the free throw line, and 12 points from JaMychal Green (Alabama/Montgomery, Ala.).
“We had some shots that didn’t fall,” Jenkins said. “We made a couple of mistakes on defense. They got to the free throw line. They hit some big shots and they were able to close it out.
“We still want to play hard,” Jenkins replied on how the U.S. is looking to respond in its next two games. “We didn’t accomplish our goal, but the worst thing we can do is give up and not play our hardest. We have to keep giving it our all and try to finish out strong.”
For the first time in its six games the USA was outrebounded 43-37. Further, the U.S., which was a frigid 34.3 percent from the field (23-67 FGs) and 16.7 percent from 3-point (5-30 3pt FGs), fell short in the points-in-the-paint category, tallying 26 to Lithuania’s 38, and in second-chance points, scoring six to Lithuania’s 11. “They fought hard,” Orlando Johnson (UC Santa Barbara/Seaside, Calif.) said. “They fought really hard. You could tell they’ve been together for awhile. They’ve been in games like this before. There were situations down the stretch we didn’t execute … we just didn’t finish.”
The two teams were separated by no more than four points in the first ten minutes. Gibbs scored the first basket of the game, and Lithuania immediately countered with a three. The U.S. put together five unanswered points with Jenkins’ first long ball followed by a jumper from Gibbs at 6:20 to take a 9-5 lead, but Lithuania sank a bucket and knocked in a free throw to cut it to 9-8 at 4:12. From there each U.S bucket was countered before JaMychal Green’s two made free throws at 57.5 seconds to end the first quarter with the USA leading 15-12.
Gibbs tallied six points in a 7-2 U.S. spurt to start the second stanza, but Lithuania countered with its largest run of the game, scoring eight unanswered points to tie the game, 22-22, at 5:49. The U.S. maintained a two- to three-point lead until a 6-0 Lithuanian run gave their side a 35-33 advantage at 1:23. Jenkins closed with three 3-pointers in the last 1:04 to help the Americans head to the halftime locker room with a 42-37 advantage.
Both teams ran into foul trouble as early as the second quarter, with Lithuania sending their third-best scorer entering the game, Gediminas Zyle, to the bench at 9:12 for the remainder of the first half and Draymond Green (Michigan State/Saginaw, Mich.) taking a seat with three fouls at 1:23.
Outscoring the USA 28-19, Lithuania’s nine-point advantage in the third period proved to be the difference in the game, as the Europeans started out the quarter with a 7-0 run to recapture the lead at 7:27, 44-42. The U.S. fought back with four straight points from Gibbs followed by points from JaMychal Green, Marcus Denmon (Missouri/Kansas City, Mo.) and Jenkins, and Draymond Green battled on the offensive glass for a tip-in at 3:30 to put the U.S. up 54-53. The lead changed sides four more times before Lithuania closed with a 7-3 run, and by the time Denmon just beat the third quarter buzzer with a jumper off of an assist from Scoop Jardine (Syracuse/Philadelphia, Pa.), the USA trailed 65-61.
A 3-pointer from Lithuania’s leading scorer, Gediminas Orelik, who finished with 19 points, gave his team its largest lead of the game of eight points, 72-64, at 6:01 in the fourth. JaMychal Green cleaned up his first miss at 4:57 and sparked the USA’s largest run of the game, 8-0, to tie the score at 74-74 with 1:55 on the clock. Draymond Green fouled Lithuania’s Mantas Kadzevicius, who made both of his free throws at 1:40 to give Lithuania the game’s final two points.
The USA missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key on its next trip down, rebounded Lithuania’s next miss and then missed a driving attempt to the basket. Lithuania clanked two free throw opportunities at 50 seconds, but the USA’s shooting troubles continued as it could not connect on another shot attempt at 26 seconds. Jenkins stole the ball on the next defensive trip at 22 seconds, but the possession resulted in a missed three for the red, white and blue. The USA fouled Lithuania at 2 seconds, which missed two more free throws, but time ran out on the USA’s medal hopes as Denmon’s full-court shot attempt just rimmed out as the buzzer sounded.
Trevor Mbakwe (Minnesota/ St. Paul, Minn.) grabbed 10 rebounds for the USA while Denmon and Jardine each dished out three assists.
In addition to Orelik, Lithuania featured three other players in double figures and recorded 18 assists on its 28 made field goals.
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. Lithuania advanced to the semifinal against Canada (4-1) which topped Romania 71-58. The other semifinal game will be determined following tonight’s 8:30 p.m. quarterfinals between Germany (5-0) and Serbia (3-1) and Russia (5-0) versus Finland (3-2).
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 entering this year’s event.