Team USA Three Wins From Becoming U19 World Champions
The 2019 FIBA U19 Men’s Basketball World Cup began Saturday in Heraklion, Greece, and now six days into the competition, Team USA is one of eight sides remaining in the quarterfinals. The Americans will play Russia tomorrow at 11 a.m. EST for a trip to the tournament’s semifinals. The game is streaming free on FIBA’s YouTube channel.
On our nation’s annual celebration of independence, here is what you need to know about our stars of tomorrow competing for international supremacy.
Team USA Full Roster
F | Scott Wayne Barnes Jr. (University HS)
G | Cade Cunningham (Montverde Academy)
G | Jalen Green (Prolific Prep)
G | Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State)
G | Kira Lewis Jr. (Alabama)
G | Isaac Likekele (Oklahoma State)
F | Evan Mobley (Rancho Christian HS)
F | Reginald Perry (Mississippi State)
F | Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Villanova)
G | Jalen Suggs (Minnehaha Academy)
F | Trevion Williams (Purdue)
F | Ziaire Williams (Notre Dame HS)
The team is made mostly of the top prospects in the Class of 2020, plus a few rising stars from college basketball last season and one of the highest-touted recruits from the Class of 2019. The top performers have come from both groups, and most everyone has seen good floor time with head coach Bruce Weber (Kansas State) and assistant coaches Mike Hopkins (Washington) and LeVelle Moton (North Carolina Central) playing a deep bench. The rotation has been wide to start the tournament as the Americans have blown through their foes by an average margin of 34.25 points per game, so it could tighten up if future opponents can keep it closer.
Group Phase Game #1 – USA 111, New Zealand 71
New Zealand kept it close with the Americans through the first half, staying within single digits at the break, 44-35. But an offensive explosion from Team USA in the second half was way too much for the Kiwis to handle, as America opened the third quarter with 13 unanswered points, holding New Zealand without a score for nearly the first five minutes of the period. The game was over from there as Team USA only increased its distance.
Perry led the game with 20 points, shooting 9-of-12 from the field, and four other Americans joined him in double-digit scoring. He also notched three steals, second to Likekele, who snagged five of his own as the duo tormented New Zealand’s ball handlers.
Group Phase Game #2 – USA 102, Lithuania 84
Team USA jumped out to an early lead, opening up a double-digit lead in the opening period, but Lithuania didn’t go away. The team outscored the Americans in the second quarter and playing close to even in the second half, but Lithuania couldn’t do enough to overcome the hurdle it set for itself in the first 10 minutes.
The Americans dominated in the paint, outscoring Lithuania 76-26 down low, some of which came off the fastbreak. Team USA forced turnovers and got out in transition well, transforming 26 Lithuanian turnovers into 33 points. Cunningham and Haliburton posted 21 points each, a tie for the game-high, with incredible efficiency from Haliburton, who only missed one of his nine shots, sinking four three-pointers.
Group Phase Game #3 – USA 87, Senegal 58
A much lower scoring affair, Team USA slowly constricted its chokehold on this one. It was an uncharacteristically poor shooting night for the Americans, who went 3-of-20 from beyond the arc and shot 44.9 percent from the field, their first time shooting below 50 percent in a game in this tournament. But the team made up for it through defense, keeping Senegal even colder at a 29.3 percent shooting clip.
Suggs and Green shared the title of top scorer for the night, amassing 14 points each. Five Americans dished at least three assists as the team assisted on 28 of its 35 baskets, a testament to the unselfishness and quality of basketball this team is capable of.
Round of 16 – USA 116, Latvia 66
This game ended when the opening tip was won. By the end of the first quarter, Team USA already led by 15. At halftime, the Americans held a 28-point advantage. Latvia managed only seven points in the third period. By the time the final 10 minutes rolled around, Team USA was up 95-38, putting into context how much nicer the final scoreline was compared to what it could have been had the foot stayed on the gas pedal.
America dominated every conceivable aspect of the game as Robinson and Trevion Williams both scored 17 to match for the game’s top scoring performance, and Cunningham put up a double-double on 11 points and 10 assists.
Team USA will face Russia in the quarterfinals. The Americans have far-and-away been the best offensive team in Greece, scoring 104.0 points per contest, but the Russians have averaged the third-most of any team in the World Cup with 88.8 points per outing. Aleksandr Ershov, an 18-year-old shooting guard who plays his club ball with CSKA-2, has been the top catalyst behind that, his 19.5 points per game sixth in the tournament.
America is such a lopsided favorite to win this tournament that some betting websites were offering odds for a winner excluding Team USA. Regardless of what matchups this team faces, it should win every one on the road to a title. Now, that’s of course easier said than done, and there is some serious talent in this event. But if Team USA continues to force turnovers and convert them into points, move the ball to find and create openings and remains focused on dominating in the paint, it should take another international crown home.
Possible future schedule (contingent on victories)
- Quarterfinals – vs. Russia (July 5 at 11 a.m. EST)
- Semifinals – vs. Lithuania/Serbia (July 6, Time TBD)
- Finals – vs. TBD (July 7 at 1:30 p.m. EST)
All games available on FIBA’s YouTube channel.