July 6, 2011
The USA U19 World Championship team had played two down to the wire games and won them both, but a third time wasn't a charm as Croatia scored five points in the game's final 50 seconds to steal an 87-85 win over the USA. The loss was the USA first's setback in the championship.
For the second consecutive game Jeremy Lamb (Connecticut/ Norcross, Ga.) scored a game best, accounting for 25 points. Patric Young (Florida/Jacksonville, Fla.) made 7-of-8 shots and finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, while Joe Jackson (Memphis/Memphis, Tenn.) added 14 points and was the only other U.S. play to score in double figures.
Villanova's James Bell contributed four rebounds in 13 minutes of action.
While the loss didn't affect the USA's number one seed for Group F, the win by Croatia did shake up the standings below and caused a three-way tie for second. Utilizing the FIBA tie breaking formula, Croatia earned Group F's number two seed, Lithuania is number three and Serbia is number four.
Following a day off Thursday, the medal round quarterfinals will be played Friday in Riga, Latvia, as the top four teams from the two second round groups earning the right to advance. While the USA's quarterfinals opponent remains to be determined, the seeding means a matchup between the two gold medal favorites, the USA and Lithuania, could occur in the semifinals if both teams win their quarterfinals game.
"Congratulations to Croatia, they played, very, very well. They did a great job of spreading us out on the offensive end; they made our defense have to scramble and they shot the ball very, very well. They played with more purpose than we did and deserved to win," said USA mentor Paul Hewitt (George Mason). "We did have a chance at the end, but we didn't do some of the things we needed to, especially defensively, to hold on to the win.
"But overall we are the No. 1 seed coming out of (second round) pool play. We wanted to go undefeated obviously, but I think rest right now is probably the best thing for our guys, just kind of get away from basketball, get their minds clear as we get ready for the one-and-done situation."
Whether it was the previous day's emotional 107-105 overtime win against Lithuania, or the team's sixth game in seven days, The U.S. team struggled to find its rhythm from the opening tip.
"We started a little slow. I know some people were tired and we just didn't play with the energy we were supposed to," admitted Lamb.
Croatia made the first run of the game and scored eight straight points to grab a 22-14 lead. However, Jackson hit a 3-pointer with 21 seconds left in the first quarter to cut the USA's deficit to 25-24.
Midway into the second period the Americans put up an 8-1 scoring run to take the lead 41-34. However, Croatia battled back and finished off the final 2:37 of the half by outscoring the U.S. 12-2 to lead 46-43 at intermission.
The U.S. trailed 50-49 following a Jackson drive for two, but Croatia got 3-pointers from three different players and went on a 15-4 offensive push to open its biggest lead of the game and seize control 65-53 with 3:50 left in the third quarter.
Following a USA timeout, the Americans returned to the court with more of a sense of urgency and after a basket from Young with three seconds left in the quarter, lagged behind 70-61 heading into the game's final 10 minutes.
Behind five points from Young and four from Lamb, the USA marched out to an 80-75 lead after outscoring the Croatians 19-5 over the first 6:57 of the final stanza.
The U.S. held an 83-80 advantage with 1:28 left in the game after Lamb made one of two free throw tries. Croatia's Toni Katic hit a jumper to pull his team within a single point, then came up with the ball off of a Lamb mishandle and raced in for a layup and drew a foul with 49.9 seconds remaining. Making his free throw, Croatia moved out ahead 85-83. After Croatia made one of two free throws, Lamb nailed a jumper to close the gap to a single point, 86-85 with 24.9 seconds showing on the clock.
The U.S. fouled Katic with 20.4 seconds to go and sent him to the line where he made one of two free throws to expand Croatia's lead to 87-85.
The U.S. worked the ball looking to tie or take the lead, however, Lamb's jumper was off target and Croatia secured the rebound and had the 87-85 victory.
The USA shot a respectable 47.3 percent from the field and owned a 46-32 advantage on the glass. However, the USA defense allowed Croatia to shoot 49.3 percent from the field overall, including 7-of-20 from 3-point, and was able to force just nine turnovers.
Asked what it would take for his USA Team to win its remaining three games and bring home the gold medal foir a second consecutive U19 championship, Hewitt replied, "All 12 guys contributing. I don't think you win three games in three days relying on five or six guys. I think we're going to need all 12 guys, even if it's just provide minutes from the bench, or coming in the game diving on a loose ball; helping us get a stop; making a play offensively; it's going to take all 12 guys in order to get this done."