July 11, 2003
THESSALONIKI, Greece - It took just over a quarter for the USA (2-0) to shake China (0-2) Friday night, and behind a balanced scoring attack that featured Deron Williams (Illinois/The Colony, Texas) scoring 23 points, while Paul Davis (Michigan State/Rochester, Mich.) and De'Angelo Alexander (Oklahoma/Midwest City, Okla.) each tossed in 20, the United States overpowered China 109-84 to win its second game in as many nights at the 7th Annual FIBA Junior World Championship. The U.S. juniors wrap up preliminary group play Saturday against 1-1 Nigeria. For weekend results at the 2003 FIBA Junior World Championships, please go to www.usabasketball.com.
In addition to scoring the fifth (tied) most points ever by a USA team in a Junior World Championship game, the USA also tied the team's single game record for made 3-pointers with 11 (the U.S. also had 11 against Slovenia in Thursday's game), and Williams five made 3-pointers also tied the USA single mark for most made 3-pointers in a Junior World Championship game (Trajon Langdon, Stephon Marbury and Wesley Person also made five in a game).
Carrying a 24-23 advantage into the start of the second quarter, Williams and Alexander each contributed five points as the USA exploded on an 18-4 run to open the second stanza and the Americans took charge 42-27 with 5:20 to play in the first half.
China cut the gap to nine, 44-35, but Williams got the offense back on track with a 3-pointer and at halftime the USA led comfortably 54-40. While Williams had 12 points in the first half and Alexander added 11, it was a balanced offensive showing as 10 of the USA's 11 healthy players managed to put points on the board in the first 20 minutes. Whatever drama was left in the contest was quickly ended when the USA, powered by six points from Davis, opened the third quarter with a 17-2 run to take full control 71-43 with 6:15 remaining. From there it was smooth sailing as the Americans rolled along to the 109-84 victory.
"I think there were three big keys for us tonight," offered USA head coach Ernie Kent. "Number one, we just played with tremendous energy. Sometimes it takes you to get one game out of your system to do that. Number two, that energy allowed us to do a really good job defensively which gave us an opportunity to get out in transition. And Number three, we have continued to shoot the ball well and pass the ball. We had 27 assists out of our 41 baskets and that tells you something about this team giving the ball up. We made 11 3-pointers again in the game. I didn't know we would shoot the ball that well but we have shot the ball extremely well."
"It's real important (shooting the ball well) in this tournament, especially because I think we're giving up some things inside in terms of experience. So shooting the ball becomes a premium for us so we can keep the floor spread to give our big guys a chance to operate down there."
While the bulk of the USA's scoring came from Alexander, Allen and Williams, Maurice Ager (Michigan State/Detroit, Mich.) added 14 points, and Ryan Hollins (UCLA/Pasadena, Calif.) finished with 8 points (3-3, 0-0, 2-3). Alexander paced the USA's rebounding effort with nine boards, while Williams, Daniel Brown (Illinois/Maywood, Ill.) and Mustafa Shakur (Friends Central High School/Philadelphia, Pa.) dished off for six, five and five assists, respectively.
Hollins, who played 18 minutes, also contributed three rebounds (2-1) and one assist.
"We played better in this game. It may have looked easy but we worked very hard in this game," remarked Kent. "I thought in the first game we didn't have that kind of intensity. Each game is different, tomorrow we play a team (Nigeria) that is very physical and very athletic and we need to adjust to that. I can tell already that there are six or seven really, really good teams. It's going to be very competitive and anybody can win this tournament because there are that many good teams right now. Any team here can beat anybody."
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 have been placed into four groups of four for preliminary round robin play. The top two teams from each group will advance to the medal second round, while the remainder of the field will compete for 9th - 16th place.
The USA is competing in Group C, joining China, Nigeria and Slovenia. 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 Friday's other results, action heated up as Slovenia (1-1) bounced back from its loss to the USA and upended Nigeria (1-1) 102-65 in the other Group C game. In Group A play, South Korea (0-2) missed a game tying free throw in the final seconds and Turkey (1-1) posted an 81-80 victory; and Australia remained perfect and handed Argentina (1-1) its first loss 75-57. In Group B, Puerto Rico (1-1) got on the winning track and easily beat Iran 92-66, while host Greece (2-0) pounded Angola (1-1) 87-65. In Group D, Lithuania (1-1) narrowly edged Venezuela (1-1) 75-74, while Croatia upped its record to 2-0 after whipping Malaysia (0-2) 107-39.