Men's Basketball: USA Defeats Finland

  • July 04, 2009 10:09 AM
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From USA Basketball for MSNsportsNET.com
July 3, 2009

  Da'Sean Butler

BELGRADE, Serbia - Four players scored in double digits and the 2009 USA Men’s World University Games Team (1-0) held Finland (1-1) scoreless over the final 8:50 as the USA opened World University Games play with a 87-40 victory on Friday night in Belgrade, Serbia.

Craig Brackins (Iowa State / Palmdale, Calif.) and Corey Fisher (Villanova / Bronx, N.Y.) paced the balanced attack with 12 points apiece, Talor Battle (Penn State / Albany, N.Y.) was perfect from the field and finished with 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting, while Robbie Hummel (Purdue / Valparaiso, Ind.) notched 10 points in a game that saw all 12 team members contribute to the scoring column.

“We showed our guys a little about Finland in our scouting report, but, obviously, we didn’t have a lot,” said USA and University of Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan. “If we don’t learn to study when we are on the bench and then execute on the floor, things can get away from us in a hurry. The thing I like about our team, and I’ve told them from day one, is our guys do a great job of observing from the bench. Giving up two points in the fourth quarter shows that our guys made the adjustments.

“We shot 9-of-21 (from 3-point). That’s 27 points on 21 shots. Anytime you can make more points from your threes than you took shots, obviously, that’s pretty good. If it’s there we take it, but I liked some of the threes where we penetrated, drew the help and then kicked to our teammates. We got some pretty good looks.”

Finland put the first points on the board and stayed close through much of the first quarter, and with 1:23 on the clock the USA held a 13-12 lead. However, behind a pair of free throws from Quincy Pondexter (Washington / Fresno, Calif.) and threes from Battle and James Anderson (Oklahoma State / Junction City, Ark.) in the final minute of the period, the U.S. jumped to a 21-12 advantage at the end of the first.

Both teams had trouble putting the ball in the hoop over the first five minutes of the second period, but the U.S. managed to pull away 29-15 with 4:34 to go in the half. Finland scored the next two buckets, and the game was a 10-point affair, 29-19, at 3:05. From there the USA went to work. Brackins scored the game’s next four points, including a put-back, and Hummel and Battle each tossed in a 3-pointer. As the halftime buzzer sounded, the USA’s lead had ballooned to 20 points, 39-19.

In the first four minutes of the third quarter the USA jumped to a 50-23 lead. Finland made an attempt to close the gap and put together a 9-2 run that left the score 52-32 with 3:27 left in the period. However, the USA was too deep and rallied for a 12-2 run that included a pair of threes to close out the third quarter with an insurmountable 64-38 lead. The U.S. defense allowed just one Finnish field goal at 8:50 in the fourth quarter, forcing its opponents into shooting 1-of-15 from the field during the final 10 minutes. With its defense fueling its offense, the USA poured in 23 points in the final stanza, including a 21-0 game-ending run.

“We came out of the gate slow, but we picked it up,” said Battle. “Especially in the second half. In the last quarter, we held them to two points. It started on the defense. We made stops, and we were able to get out on transitions and score some baskets.”

The USA, which outrebounded Finland 54-34, got nine boards from Brackins, while Lazar Hayward (Marquette / Buffalo, N.Y.) grabbed eight and Deon Thompson (North Carolina / Torrance, Calif.) had seven boards and eight points.

The U.S. shot 50.0 percent (32-64 FGs) from the field and made a deadly 42.9 percent (9-21 3 pt FGs) from beyond the arc, while limiting Finland to just 23.4 percent (15-64 FGs) of its shots, including 16.7 percent (4-24 3pt FGs) from 3-point.

The United States closes out preliminary play against South Korea (0-1) on July 4 (2:00 p.m. EDT). Second round action is scheduled for July 6-7, quarterfinals will be played July 9 and medal semifinals are slated for July 10. The gold medal will be contested on July 11 (3:00 p.m. EDT).

“(South Korea plays) very hard,” said USA assistant coach Frank Haith of the University of Miami. “We have to understand that they are going to scrap. They are going to be very aggressive. They will change defenses. They’ll press some. They’ll play some zone. We have to be prepared to go up against a lot of different looks.”

In the day’s earlier games, Romania (2-0) defeated Mexico (0-2) 78-73, Lithuania (2-0) beat the United Arab Emirates (0-2) 131-48, Greece (1-1) took Australia (0-1) 89-72, Bulgaria (1-0) beat Ukraine (1-1) 79-71, Portugal (1-1) downed Iran (0-1) 86-78, Italy (1-1) clipped China (0-1) 90-79, Latvia (2-0) trounced South Africa (0-1) 100-42, while Russia (2-0) beat Brazil (0-2) 99-62.

Ryan is being assisted by collegiate head coaches Haith and Rob Jeter of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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