By USA Basketball for MSNsportsNET.com
July 11, 2009
BELGRADE, Serbia - Featuring four players who scored in double digits, the 2009 USA Men's World University Games Team (6-1) rebounded from its semifinal loss and collected the bronze medal after defeating Israel (6-2) 91-80 on Saturday evening in Belgrade, Serbia. Host Serbia (5-1) tipped-off against Russia (6-1) in the gold medal game at 9:00 p.m. (6:00 p.m. EDT). Medaling in every World University Games in which a USA Basketball team has competed, the USA is now 131-8 in all-time World University Games play and owns a record 13 gold medals, three silver medals and three bronze medals.
Lazar Hayward (Marquette / Buffalo, N.Y.) led the attack with 14 points, Da'Sean Butler (West Virginia / Newark, N.J.) netted 13, Talor Battle (Penn State / Albany, N.Y.) pitched in 12 and Evan Turner (Ohio State / Chicago, Ill.) scored 10 points and dished out three assists.
"Our guys showed a lot of grit," said USA and University of Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan. "There were a couple pushes that Israel made, and we answered. They cut our lead to four, they got it to two and then four again, and they stayed around. Then we opened it up. Our guys kept fighting, too. Israel wanted a medal as bad as we did."
"Israel is a really good team, and they wanted to win as well," said Hayward. "Everybody wants to beat USA, so we are always going to get their best shot. They didn't give up until the buzzer sounded."
The U.S. struck first with a Hayward jumper 14 seconds into the game and went up 9-2 on another Hayward bucket at 7:43. However, Israel woke up and the first quarter featured four lead changes, two knotted scores and ended with the U.S. up 24-22.
Israel tied up the game 24-24 early in the second quarter, but never retook the lead. Turner answered with his first points of the game at 9:14 that gave the United States a lead it would never relinquish. The USA managed to go up by 10 points, 38-28, following a pair of Trevor Booker (Clemson / Whitmire, S.C.) free throws with 3:17 to go in the half. But each time the U.S. started to pull away, Israel stabbed back. Stringing together a 6-0 run, Israel closed to 38-34 by the 1:35 mark. Battle put up a three and Butler followed with a bucket. However Israel took advantage of a late turnover and scored with three seconds before the midway buzzer and at halftime the USA's lead was 43-36.
"They were getting some lay-ups and getting to the lane very easy," said Hayward. "But we made some adjustments and we stopped them from getting to the basket. They didn't shoot well from three, so that was good."
The third quarter was fairly even as neither team managed to put together a run and at the quarter break, the USA's lead was 70-64.
Israel opened the final stanza with a 3-pointer and the lead was down to three, 70-67. Jarvis Varnado (Mississippi State / Brownsville, Tenn.), who just missed a double-double with nine points and nine boards, and added four blocked shots, scored six points in a 10-1 run to give his side some breathing room and at 6:06 the U.S. was up 80-68. Israel made one final try to capture the bronze and got within nine points, 84-75, at 3:26. The USA was determined to return home with a medal and held off its opponents for the eventual 91-79 victory.
"They wouldn't be in the bronze medal game if they weren't good," said Thompson. "So we expected them to come out and play well and battle us to the end, and they did that. We made some adjustments and we continued to play hard. We did an all-around good job as a team to try and stop what they were trying to do."