June 26, 2011
Twenty-six hours after arriving in Panevëzys, Lithuania, the USA U19 World Championship Team got its first taste of international competition Sunday evening and it was a bitter tasting one as Lithuania's U20 National Team rolled over the Americans 101-72 in an exhibition game. Tim Hardaway, Jr. (Michigan/Miami, Fla.) paced the USA offense with 18 points, 16 coming in the second half.
Villanova's James Bell tallied eight points in 20 minutes off the bench on 3-of-7 shooting from the field.
In addition to Hardaway's scoring, the USA saw Joe Jackson (Memphis/Memphis, Tenn.) record 13 points, a USA high eight rebounds, five assists and four steals, while Doug McDermott (Creighton/Ames, Iowa) finished with 12 points and four rebounds.
"I thought the Lithuanian team played very well, especially in the first half. They moved the ball extremely well and did a great job of screening our guys," commented USA head coach Paul Hewitt (George Mason). "I expected us to play better. I don't think we played very well. But again credit should go to Lithuania, they played well.
"I thought the thing we learned from this game is just how physical the game is. We have to raise our level of physicality, especially on the defense end, firing through screens, and on the offensive end, setting better screens. I thought in the first half we were a little timid, a little light on our screens. In the second half, especially in the third quarter, we did as better job. We picked it up defensively, picked it up offensively and did much better."
The U.S. never found its rhythm in the game. Falling behind 5-0, Jackson converted two free throws and Meyers Leonard (Illinois/Robinson, Ill.) hit a short jumper with 8:30 left on the clock to close the gap to 5-4. The USA shooting went arctic cold from that point and the red, white and blue didn't hit another jumper until the 2:36 mark of the period, and by then the USA was looking at a 26-8 deficit.
The U.S. shot just 2-15 overall and was 0-5 from 3-point in the opening quarter, and Lithuania owned a comfortable 32-8 lead at the end of the first period after sinking 12-of-20 shots.
It was more of the same in the second quarter and by halftime the USA U19 squad lagged behind 59-27. The Americans over the course of the first two quarters managed to connect on just 10-of-33 shots (.303 percent), and was outrebounded 28-14. Lithuania conversely made 22-of-35 shots (.629 percent), including 7-of-15 (.467 percent) from beyond the 3-point arc.
Coming out of locker room at halftime with new found energy, the USA defense stepped up and the U.S. outscored its foe 28-13 to close the score to 72-55 after three quarters. Lithuania was held in the third stanza to 20.0 percent shooting as the hosts made only 3-of-15 field goal attempts and 7-of-12 free throws.
The U.S. closed to within 15 points twice early in the final quarter, but could get no closer.
"I thought (Tim) Hardaway set a good tone in the third quarter defensively, then he proceeded to make a couple of shots that got us back into the game, but then we gave it back up in the fourth quarter," Hewitt said.
"Everyone came out more hungry, more aggressive and with a sense of urgency," said Hardaway about the team's strong third quarter showing. "Everyone was getting up into their man, fighting over ball screens. We all just went out and played basketball.
"We want to run and get as many easy points as we can. We're a very athletic team so we rely on getting good defensive stops, turnovers and deflections and hoping we can get in transition and get wide open layups and dunks," Hardaway Jr. added.
For the game, the USA shot a frigid 35.5 percent from the field (27-76 FGs), an even colder 25.0 percent from 3-point (6-24 3pt FGs) and 12-of 20 from the foul line. Lithuania finished shooting 49.3 percent overall (33-67 FGs), 9-of-25 from 3-point (.360 percent), and 26-of-42 from the charity stripe. The Lithuanians also controlled the glass, outrebounding the Americans 53-42.
"We got ourselves in a big hole there in the first half obviously, they shot 75 percent and that's just not really acceptable," stated USA center Leonard. "In the half court they killed us because they just waited for us to make a mistake, then they made their open shots. I think in the second half we definitely won it to end it on a good note, but we need to be more physical and come out ready to play."
Jackson echoed similar feelings: "This is a great experience for me, just to see the different basketball around the world. I'm very excited, I want to play another game right now to tell the truth. We're going to get better as the days go on, this just shows us how hard we have to play and what our competition is like."
Assisting Hewitt on the U.S. sidelines are collegiate head coaches Randy Bennett of St. Mary's College and Cliff Warren of Jacksonville University.
The team will conclude its exhibition schedule facing Lithuania's U19 national team on June 28 in Vilnius, Lithuania. The 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship for Men is being held June 30-July 10 in Valmiera, Liepaja and Riga, Latvia.
Sixteen nations will battle for the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship for Men title June 30-July 10 in Latvia. The United States has been placed in Group D, along with China, Egypt and Serbia. The 12 remaining 19-and-under national teams were distributed as such: Group A includes Brazil, Poland, Russia and Tunisia; Group B consists of Argentina, Australia, Latvia and Taiwan; and Group C is comprised of Canada, Croatia, Lithuania and South Korea.
The U.S. squad's preliminary round slate opens with a June 30 contest against Egypt, followed by Serbia on July 1, and the USA squad will conclude preliminary play July 2 versus China. The top three teams from each preliminary group will qualify for the preliminary second round, while the fourth place teams will qualify for the classification round to determine 13th to 16th places. The quarterfinals will be held on July 8, semifinals are slated for July 9 and the gold and bronze medal games, as well as the 5th/6th place and 7th/8th place games will be contested on July 10.