USA Rallies Back And Holds On For 84-83 Win Over Slovenia In FIBA Junior World Championship Opener
July 11, 2003
THESSALONIKI, Greece - Fighting back from 14 points down in the second quarter, the USA Basketball Men's Junior World Championship Team (1-0) behind 24 points from Paul Davis (Michigan State / Rochester, Mich.) and 20 points from Daniel Brown (Illinois/ Maywood, Ill.) survived two would-be game winning shots as time expired to post a thrilling 84-83 win over Slovenia (0-1) in its opening game of the 7th Annual FIBA Junior World Championship. Davis and Allen combined to make 8-of-16 three-point shots for the U.S. The USA continues preliminary round play Friday against China (0-1), a 92-69 loser to Nigeria in their opening game. For weekend results of the 2003 FIBA Junior World Championships, please go to www.usabasketball.com.
'When people look at the results of this game, the appearance will be that we struggled. We didn't struggle, that was a good basketball team that has been playing together for a while,' commented USA and University of Oregon head mentor Ernie Kent.
'This was a difficult game because we haven't had an opportunity to scout Slovenia. So a smart European team that runs seven or eight really good sets, with great shooters, they're going to cause you problems if you've never seen them before and that's exactly what happened in the game.
'Once we were able to get a feel for what they were running, settle down and do a better job defensively, then it gave us a great rhythm offensively. Our press really helped us tonight, it knocked them out of their rhythm, and we shot the ball well, especially from the three in the second half. 'Dee' Brown really shot it well and Paul (Davis) had a big game,' Kent said.
While Davis scored 18 of his team high 24 points in the first half, it was Daniel Brown who carried the American squad in the game deciding fourth quarter. In a fourth quarter that saw both teams lead, with the largest point difference a mere four points, Daniel Brown scored 11 points, nine coming on 3-pointers, as the USA recorded the impressive victory.
Struggling early and falling behind 32-18 with 7:55 to play in the second quarter, the USA team climbed on the back of Davis who scored nine points during a 17-2 run that saw the Americas take a 35-34 lead with 4:09 remaining in the first half. Davis made two free throws after pulling in an offensive rebound an getting fouled to account for the first half's final points, and at halftime the USA trailed 44-43.
The United States scored the third quarter's first six points to take a 49-44 lead, but Slovenia scored six straight to regain the lead 50-49. De'Angelo Alexander (Oklahoma/Midwest City, Okla.) scored on an offensive rebound to push the USA ahead 51-50, and after Alexander capped the quarter's scoring with a layup that came off a steal and the pass by Mustfa Shakur (Friends Central High School/Philadelphia, Pa.), at the end of three quarters the U.S. led by five, 64-59.
It remained a tight affair for the final 10 minutes and Slovenia regained the lead 71-70 with 5:20 remaining following a 3-pointer by Erazem Lorbek, who played last season at Michigan State University. Deron Williams (Illinois/The Colony, Texas) connected on a three to give the lead back to the U.S., 73-71, and following 3-pointers from C.J. Watson (Tennessee / Las Vegas, Nev.) and Daniel Brown, the U.S. juniors were ahead 79-75 with 3:22 to go.
Leading 79-77 with 1:55 left, coming out of a timeout, the U.S. ran an out-of-bounds play for Daniel Brown who dropped his forth 3-pointer of the game to increase the U.S. lead to 82-77. Slovenia scored four consecutive points to close back within one, but again it was Daniel Brown who this time drove into the lane, then pulled up just inside the foul line and nailed a short jumper to up the USA advantage to 84-81 with 52 seconds showing on the clock.
Slovenia still wasn't done though. Guard Danilo Smigic scored with 31.6 seconds to play to make it a one point contest, and with 21.6 seconds remaining, Daniel Brown was called for an offensive push on the in-bounds pass, giving Slovenia a final chance for the game.
With the clock under :10, Smigic drove to the hoop looking for the easy basket or foul, but got neither as his shot rolled wide. But Slovenia came up with the rebound and Domen Lorbek's would-be game winning put back was off the mark and when Davis secured the rebound for the U.S., time expired and the USA had the 84-83 victory.
Davis added a game high 14 rebounds to go with his 24 points, while Daniel Brown made 4-of-7 3-pointers and 7-of-10 shots overall en route to his 20 points. The USA also received beneficial efforts from Alexander, who finished with 11 points and five boards, while Watson added nine points and six assists, Shakur finished with eight points, six assists and three steals. Slovenia's Erazem Lorbek, a Michigan State teammate of USA team members Davis and Marucie Ager (Michigan State/Detroit, Mich.), posted a game high 28 points, making 11-of-17 shots overall, including 4-of-5 threes.
Ryan Hollins, from UCLA, contributed four points (2-3, 0-0, 0-0) and two rebounds (1-1) in nine minutes.
The USA shot 45.8 percent from the field, and was just 11-of-30 from 3-point. Slovenia shot well, hitting 50.8 percent of its overall shots and 66.7 percent of its threes. The USA held a 36 to 34 advantage on the glass, and Slovenia was forced into 20 turnovers.
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. The USA will continue its preliminary round play facing China on July 11 and Nigeria on July 12. 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 the opening days other results, Nigeria blasted China 92-69 in Group C play; while in Group A play, Argentina (1-0) rallied in the fourth quarter to overtake South Korea (0-1) 87-67, and Australia (1-0) upended Turkey (0-1) 80-74. In Group B, Angola handed Iran a 74-50 setback, while Greece (1-0) beat Puerto Rico (0-1) 103-83. In Group D, Croatia (1-0) hung on to sting Lithuania (0-1) 73-69, while Venezuela (1-0) thrashed Malaysia (0-1) 88-60.