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Team USA Slips Past Serbia 80-78 at U19 World Championship
James Bell
 
James Bell
 

July 1, 2011

Some big plays at critical times by a mixture of USA players and a balanced scoring attack that was paced by Memphis guard Joe Jackson's (Memphis/Memphis, Tenn.) 19 points helped pave the way to a exciting 80-78 USA (2-0) victory over Serbia (1-1) Friday in FIBA U19 World Championship preliminary round play in Liepaja, Latvia. The win, the second in as many nights, assured the USA of earning the No. 1 seed for Group D regardless of the outcome in its final preliminary round game Saturday. The USA meets China (0-2), a 100-96 double overtime loser to Egypt (1-1), in its game Saturday.

"Joe Jackson made big time plays in transition all game long," said USA and George Mason University head coach Paul Hewitt.

While Jackson led the U.S. offense, Patric Young (Florida/Jacksonville, Fla.) finished with 13 points on 6-of-6 shooting and added seven rebounds, Tony Mitchell (North Texas/Dallas, Texas) was credited with 11 points and a team high nine rebounds, and Tim Hardaway, Jr. (Michigan/Miami, Fla.) scored 11 points, including the game winning jumper with 47 second left, and also added a team high four assists and a pair of steals.

Villanova's James Bell was in the starting lineup. He tallied four points and two rebounds in 26 minutes.

"This was a great test for our guys. We're just trying to get better in each and every game," stated Hewitt. "I think this is the type of game we can benefit from moving forward. We're obviously happy with the win and feel fortunate that we got the win, but I think the benefits from this game may be shown later in the tournament."

Leading most of the game and entering the fourth quarter possessing a 57-53 lead thanks to Mitchell's old fashioned three-point play which saw him take a feed from Jackson a slam home two and convert on the foul shot with 56.7 seconds left in the third quarter.

Following another Mitchell dunk off an offensive rebound, and a fast break layup from Jackson that came off a Mitchell block at the other end, the USA opened up a 61-53 lead with 9:27 left in the game.

 

 

But Serbia rallied behind five points from guard Aleksandar Cvetkovic and ripped off seven straight points to close within a single point, 61-60. After a 3-pointer from Luka Mitrovic found the bottom of the net, Serbia owned a 69-65 lead with 6:15 remaining.

Trailing 77-74, the U.S. was the benefactor of several crucial plays. Mitchell grabbed a huge offensive rebound and made both free throws after being fouled to cut the deficit to 77-76 at 2:24. Jackson drove and scored to tie up the contest 78-78 with 1:58 left, and Hardaway nailed a short driving jumper with 47 seconds showing on the clock to push the U.S. ahead 80-78. Bell made a steal with 34 seconds to play on the other end, and while the Americans failed to score, they used some precious time before turning the ball over to Serbia with 22.9 seconds left.

"It came down to some big plays. We didn't hold our head down, we all came together as a team and I think this W proves to everybody that we are playing together and we are getting better," stated Hardaway, Jr.

"It came down to some big plays. We didn't hold our head down, we all came together as a team and I think this W proves to everybody that we are playing together and we are getting better," stated Hardaway, Jr.

Serbia went to Cvetkovic, who had scored 20 points, and Bell matched up against him. Working it for a final shot, Cvetkovic's 3-pointer was solidly defended and off target and Jeremy Lamb cleared the rebound, his seventh of the game, with 3.8 seconds to go and he ran out the clock to seal the victory.

"I just focused on trying to make a play instead of going for the ball; staying solid, staying in front of my man and the opportunity came for me to make a play and I just did it...It wasn't just me, it was a team effort," remarked Bell.

"Cvetkovic caused problems for us all day. There were times when we were trying to go over the ball screen and he got into the paint and created easy shots for himself or teammates. We got an eight point lead and I made the decision, not a very bright move in hindsight, to go under the screen and he stepped behind and made a three to get them back in the game."

Young scored five points during a 7-0 USA run to help his team to an early 11-6 lead. The scored was even at 17 with 31.9 seconds left in the first quarter when Meyers Leonard (Illinois/Robinson, Ill.) was fouled and Serbia's bench was whistled for a technical. Leonard made his two free throws and Keith Appling (Michigan State/Detroit, Mich.) added two more to help the U.S. to a 21-17 lead, an advantage they took into the second quarter.

Getting point production from four different players - Jeremy Lamb (Connecticut/ Norcross, Ga.), Doug McDermott (Creighton/Ames, Iowa), Mitchell and Hardaway, Jr. - the USA reeled off eight consecutive points to jump ahead 36-26 with 3:21 remaining. The American squad owned a 38-31 lead at halftime.

In the game, the U.S. held a 43-29 rebounding advantage and its 17 offensive boards help it overcome a 1-for13 shooting night from beyond the 3-point line. The USA was deadly from the foul line sinking 25-27 tries.

"Yeah, it was a fun game, but it got tough, they got tough late," said Jackson who was limited to 24 minutes of action by foul trouble. "They made it a tight game because we kept them at the free throw line. We were trying to play aggressive but the refs were controlling the game so we couldn't play physical like we do in the U.S. That's something you have to learn playing overseas, it's different. They let you play physical but you can't ride guys and that's what we were trying to do."

Sixteen nations are battling for the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship for Men gold medal. The U.S. concludes its preliminary round play versus China on Saturday2 (11:15 a.m. EDT).

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.

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