By USA BASKETBALL
The USA Men’s U19 World Cup Team (2-0) forced 26 turnovers and scored 40 points in transition in a hard-fought 102-84 win over Lithuania (1-1) on Sunday to remain undefeated at the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup in Heraklion, Greece.
Cade Cunningham (Montverde Academy, Fla./Arlington, Texas) and Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State/Oshkosh, Wis.) each finished with 21 points in the win. Cunningham, a major Kentucky recruiting targer, added seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and one block in 28 minutes while making nine of 16 shots, and Haliburton shot 8-of-9 from the field, including 4-of-5 from 3-point, while dishing out eight of the USA’s 26 assists.
“It felt good tonight. I didn’t really hit too many shots during our exhibition games or in tryouts, so to see the ball go in the hoop always feels good,” said Haliburton of his sizzling shooting.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who can put the ball in the basket. So you can look up and all of a sudden we just rattled off a 10-0 run, especially in our press and things like getting out in transition. We’ve got a lot of weapons on this team. We’ve got a lot of talent and we’re starting to come together as a team, learn each other, and get a lot better.”
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (IMG Academy, Fla./Overland Park, Kan.) tied a USA U19 game record shooting 8-of-8 from the field on his way to 17 points; Isaac Likekele (Oklahoma State/Arlington, Texas) scored 11 points; Reginald Perry (Thomasville H.S./Thomasville, Ga.) had 10 points and 10 rebounds; and Jalen Green (Prolific Prep/Fresno, Calif.), another major UK target, added 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting, five steals, three assists and one rebound in 24 minutes.
“I think we can score and when we share the ball I think we’re really good,” said USA and Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber. “Last night we had 32 assists, tonight 26. If they’re unselfish, we’ve got a lot of people that can score, we’ve got a lot of people can get to the basket. We can post up, we can score at a lot of different levels. Obviously Tyrese (Haliburton) had a special game – 4-for-5 from 3. That’s been his specialty in college. A lot of of our guys have struggled shooting the 3 so far, but he stepped up tonight. He not only went 8-for-9, but then eight assists and one turnover in back-to-back nights. And I think four steals.
“I also thought Jalen Green was really good with getting steals. Cade Cunningham is just consistent, does it every time. Reggie (Perry) had the special night last night but he still gave us good stuff, and I thought Jeremiah (Robinson-Earl) was better tonight.
“I think that’s the strength of our team, we have great depth. We have a lot of people that can keep coming at you,” added Weber.
In the first quarter, Lithuania led 4-0 and then hung around for most of the period. The USA led 16-12 with 3:45 on the clock, before outscoring Lithuania 12-4 to go ahead 28-16 at the end of the period. Haliburton made his first four shts, including a pair of 3s, and scored 11 of his points in the first quarter.
The U.S. lead reached as high as 14 points in the second quarter, but at 4:31, Lithuania cut it to six points, 38-32, however the Americans finished strong to up the to 10 points, 51-41, at halftime.
At the midway point, Haliburton had 19 points and was 7-of-7 from the field including 4-of-4 from 3-point, and eight U.S. scorers were on the board for a U.S. team that was 58.3% from the field (21-36) and 50% from 3-point (4-8).
In the third period, Lithuania again fought to cut into the USA’s double-digit lead, and came within nine points, 67-58, at 1:40. The U.S., however, responded, as it did throughout the game, and ended the period with a 9-2 run to lead 76-60 headed into the fourth quarter.
Lithuania reduced the USA advantage to 11 points, 83-72, with 5:10 to play, but the USA responded with an 8-2 run and sailed in for the 102-84 win.
I think I’ve carried the same role for the past two years with USA Basketball. Just coming off the bench and bringing energy and defense. They know if I can score the ball I will, so I’m just trying to impact the game in other ways. Defense is really what I’ve been trying to do.
The USA will wrap up preliminary round play on July2 (9 a.m. EDT) against Senegal (0-2), Senegal fell 66-64 to New Zealand in today’s other Group A game. The game will be streamed live online at Facebook.com/USABasketball and YouTube.com/FIBA.
“Now we’ve got a day off, you know, get your legs. You can’t take anyone for granted. We saw the scores of the other games today. Puerto Rico had gotten blitzed yesterday and they came back and had a shot to beat Serbia who had just killed China, and then Mali, who no one expected to beat Canada, beat Canada,” said Weber. “Senegal is talented, athletic, so we can’t take anyone for granted. We have to come ready to play and hopefully the guys do that and keep playing the right way and we’ll be moving forward.”