From USA Basketball for MSNsportsNET.com
July 6, 2009
BELGRADE, Serbia - Behind 17 points from Deon Thompson (North Carolina / Torrance, Calif.), the 2009 USA Men's World University Games Team (3-0) overran Greece (1-2) in the second half and came away with a 108-77 victory in second round action on Monday night in Belgrade, Serbia. With the win, the U.S. is assured a spot in the medal quarterfinals as it can't finish lower than second in Group I play.
The U.S. faces Serbia (3-0) on July 7 (2:00 p.m. EDT) to close out second round play, and the winner of that contest will advance as the Group I's No. 1 seed. Group I crosses over in quarterfinal play with Group L, and the U.S. will play either Bulgaria (3-0) or Latvia (3-0), depending on who wins the USA versus Serbia contest and Bulgaria versus Latvia game tomorrow night. The No. 1 seed in Group I will play the No. 2 seed out of Group L, and vice versa.
In addition to Thompson's 17 points, the well-balanced offensive effort was aided by Lazar Hayward (Marquette / Buffalo, N.Y.) and Quincy Pondexter (Washington / Fresno, Calif.), who scored 13 apiece; James Anderson (Oklahoma State / Junction City, Ark.) and Da'Sean Butler (West Virginia / Newark, N.J.) each scored 10 points; Corey Fisher (Villanova / Bronx, N.Y.) had nine points and Robbie Hummel (Purdue / Valparaiso, Ind.) chipped in eight as all 12 players scored no less than five points each.
"They gave us their best in the first half," said USA and University of Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan . "In the second half, once we made our push, we got them out of any rhythm they could establish. The rest of the game we were pretty much in control, but in the first 20 minutes, they did the things that make them so good. If we didn't shut that off, we were going to be in trouble. But our guys did what we needed to do, we responded better. We got them in foul trouble in certain positions, and that helped us quite a bit. We got on the glass, and didn't turn the ball over, so we were getting shots every time down. All the fundamental things that you need to do to beat a team, we did, especially in the last 20 minutes."
"It definitely feels good to see your team go out there and play well against a high-caliber team and get a good victory," said Thompson. "It helps us build our confidence as a team."
The first quarter was a battle that saw seven lead changes and two tied scores, and with 1:29 on the clock Greece took its final lead of the game, 19-18. Forty seconds later Craig Brackins (Iowa State / Palmdale, Calif.) netted a 3-pointer that gave the USA a lead it would never relinquish, 21-19. After Pondexter fed Jarvis Varnado (Mississippi State / Brownsville, Tenn.) inside, Greece called a time out with the score 23-19 and 17 seconds left in the quarter. However, Greece coughed the ball up to the U.S. and the first quarter ended as a four-point affair.
The USA pounded away on the inside in the second quarter and managed to pull ahead by 10 points, 34-24, with 6:04 remaining before the midway break. Greece hung around and after Talor Battle (Penn State / Albany, N.Y.) hit a free throw with 8.5 seconds on the clock to put the U.S. up 44-36, Greece hit a buzzer-beating three to head into the locker room trailing 44-39.
The second half started with a Fisher 3-pointer, followed by a Hummel steal and layin, and the Americans were off and running. Butler scored eight points, including two 3-pointers, in a 21-7 run that opened up the game 65-46 with 5:36 remaining in the third period. Greece made a come-back attempt and closed to 67-54 with 2:44 to go in the third stanza, however, the USA closed out the period on an 8-0 spurt to go up 75-54 with 10 minutes remaining.
"It felt good," said Butler. "The last couple of games, I haven't been shooting the ball that well. I trust in my teammates, and they found me in the right spots, and I took it from there and just tried to make the shots."
Putting the game out of reach with an 11-2 run to go up 86-56 with 7:31 to play in the game, the Americans continued to put on a show and came away with the win.
The USA, which turned the ball over six times in the first half, took better care of the basketball in the second half, resulting in just three turnovers: one in the third quarter and two in the fourth. The U.S. also upped its shooting percentage in the second half, from 40.4 percent (17-35 FGs) to 59.5 percent (25-42 FGs), as the Americans outscored the Greeks 64-38 in the second half.
"I think we had more energy," said Anderson. "Right there at the end of the first half, we started picking up our energy and started coming together and getting defensive stops. That carried over to the second half, and that's what changed the game."
The USA scored 12 points off of turnovers, netted 58 points in the paint and had 12 second-chance points. The Americans owned the glass to a tune of 43-22, with Brackins and Butler grabbing seven each; and dished out 23 assists, five from Evan Turner (Ohio State / Chicago, Ill.), and four each from Battle, Butler and Hummel.