July 14, 2003
THESSALONIKI, Greece - Utilizing its superior depth which resulted in all 11 available players scoring, the United States (3-0) wrapped up first round play at the 2003 FIBA Junior World Championship For Men with a physical 88-69 win over Nigeria (1-2) on Saturday. Led by De'Angelo Alexander's (Oklahoma/Midwest City, Okla.) 13 points, the U.S., by virtue of its unblemished 3-0 record, finished first in Group C and now advances on to the July 14-16 medal round quarterfinals.
Following a day off on July 13, the USA opens quarterfinals pool play on July 14 facing Puerto Rico (2-1), second place finishers in Group B. The USA will face Lithuania (2-1), second place finishers in Group D, on July 15, and will close out the quarterfinals by meeting Group A first place finisher Australia.
"It was a scrappy game," said U.S. head coach Ernie Kent. "We had different players step up again tonight and that's been a real positive for this team because we have had guys who have been off their games on certain nights and other guys have filled right in. That's a good indication of the team we put together and the depth that we have on this team. C.J. (Watson), played real well tonight, Deron Williams had another good game and Ryan Hollins had a big time game tonight."
In a physical match right from the opening tip, the two teams were whistled for 58 fouls and combined shoot 78 free throws.
Paul Davis (Michigan State/Rochester, Mich.) and Daniel Brown (Illinois/Maywood, Ill.) each scored four points as the USA sprinted out to a 10-1 lead to open the contest, and while the American's defense limited Nigeria to 3-14 (21.4 percent) shooting for the quarter, the U.S. was 8-18 (44.4 percent) from the field and led 21-13 after one.
Nigeria closed to within two twice, the last time coming with 5:55 to go in the second stanza when they cut the lead to 25-23. A 7-0 U.S. run, that was capped by an Alexander 3-pointer, provided the U.S. with some breathing room as the lead was pushed to 32-23. After C.J. Watson (Tennessee/Las Vegas, Nev.) found the mark from beyond the 3-point arc with 11 seconds to go before half, and the U.S. retired to the locker room leading 44-32.
While Nigeria's shooting from the field warmed some in the second quarter to a still frigid 41.1 percent (7-17 FGs), free throw shooting in the first 20 minutes hurt them as the African champions made just 9-of-20 tries (45.0 percent), while the USA converted on 14-of-15 charity attempts (93.3 percent).
Nigeria opened the third quarter by scoring the first five points to reduce the U.S. advantage to seven, 44-37. But Daniel Brown dropped a much-needed three to reverse the momentum and with 2:02 left in the quarter the U.S. was in command 67-48. Nigeria hung around and nibbled at the lead, and at the end of three the U.S. was up 13, 71-58.
Stepping up its defensive intensity, the USA opened the final period with a 10-0 run to end all speculation on the outcome of the game. In fact, Nigeria did not score its first points of the quarter until 4:07 was left and by that time the USA led 81-61.
In a show of offensive balance, nine players finished with between six and 13 points. Helping Alexander fuel the USA offense was Watson, who finished with 12 points, 10 coming in the first half. Maurice Ager (Michigan State/Detroit, Mich.) added 10 points. Davis grabbed a game high 10 rebounds and got help on the boards from David Burgess (Woodbridge High School/Irvine, Calif.) who added seven boards as the USA held a 54-48 advantage on the glass.
Hollins, who last season as a true freshman was UCLA's starting center, started his first game for the USA Junior team. He played 20 minutes vs. Nigeria, getting eight points (2-4, 0-0, 4-5), six rebounds (4-2) and two blocked shots.
In three games (one start), Hollins is averaging 15.7 minutes, 6.7 points and 3.7 rebounds and shooting 70.0 (7-10) from the field and 75.0 (6-8) from the foul line.
The U.S. shot just 41.3 percent (26-63 FGs) from the field, and sank 28-of-37 free throw attempts. Nigeria was limited to 31.9 percent (23-72 FGs) shooting from the field, and finished shooting just 43.0 from the foul line, sinking only 18-of-41 tries.
The 7th Annual FIBA Men's Junior World Championship is being held July 10-20 in Thessaloniki, Greece. Featuring 16 junior national teams that qualified last summer, the teams were placed into four groups of four for preliminary round robin play. The top two teams from each group will advance to the medal round quarterfinals, while the remainder of the field will compete for 9th - 16th place. Second round action is being played July 14-16, while the world championship semifinals are slated for July 19 and the finals will be played July 20.
Eligibility for the 2003 USA Basketball Men's Junior World Championship Team is limited to any male athlete who is a U.S. citizen and 19-years-old or younger (born on or after Jan. 1, 1984). The USA team finalists were selected by the USA Basketball Men's Collegiate Committee. The official 12-member USA junior team was finalized during the team's June 24-July 6 training camp in Dallas.
In Saturday's action, Lithuania (2-1) ripped Venezuela (1-2) 108-60 in a game that determined a second place finish and which team would stay alive in the medal hunt. Slovenia (2-1) secured the Group C runner-up finish and advanced to the medal quarterfinals after holding off China (0-3) 87-88. Puerto Rico (2-1) likewise earned a second place finish in Group B after handling Angola (1-2) 85-71. Australia (3-0) claimed first place in Group A after whipping South Korea (0-3) 124-95, while Croatia also finished a perfect 3-0 to claim first place in Group D after running all over Malaysia (0-3) 110-65. The late games to be completed Saturday night featured host Greece (2-0) facing winless Iran (0-2), and Argentina (1-1) meets Turkey (1-1) in a game that sees the winner advance to the medal quarterfinals.