CAIRO One day after making the more than 6,900 mile trip from Colorado Springs, Colorado, to Cairo, Egypt, the USA Basketball Men’ U19 World Cup Team got its first taste of international basketball.
Approximately 24 hours after landing in Cairo, the USA U19 World Cup Team faced the Lithuania U19 Team in a friendly game. What was a tight affair over the first two quarters quickly became a rout as the Americans outscored Lithuania 40-19 in the third and fourth quarters to earn an 89-66 victory.
The USA scoring featured three players in double figures. PJ Washington (Findlay Prep/Las Vegas, Nev.) tallied a team-high 18 points, while Hamidou Diallo (Kentucky/Queens, NY) added 17 and Austin Wiley (Auburn/Hoover, Ala.) scored 15.
“It felt good to get out there and get back on my feet after the flights. I feel like we played well, but there are a bunch of things that we can get better at,” said the 6-foot-5 Diallo. “I felt good. That’s the first time in an official game in a long time, and I felt good. I think I played well, but I’ve got to get better on a bunch of things, I’m still a little rusty, but I felt like I played well and helped my team come up with a W.”
The USA’s scoring was rounded out by eight points from Cameron Reddish (Westtown School/Norristown, Pa.); seven points apiece from Kevin Huerter (Maryland/Clifton Park, N.Y.) and Louis King (Hudson Catholic H.S./Columbus, N.J.); Carsen Edwards (Purdue/Atascocita, Texas) scored six points; Brandon McCoy(Cathedral Catholic H.S/San Diego, Calif.) accounted for five; Josh Okogie (Georgia Tech/Snellville, Ga.) was credited with four points; and Romeo Langford (New Albany H.S./New Albany, Ind.) scored two points.
“We were a little sluggish in the first half, and I thought in the second half our pressure and our athleticism kind of wore them down,” said John Calipari, USA and University of Kentucky head coach. “But, our execution is not great. Our biggest issue right now is defensively we don’t talk enough, and they haven’t been together long enough to really know how we wanted to play. I’ve got 10 days to get these guys talking more, playing off one another more. I’m happy were doing a couple scrimmages, so we understand how it is.
“I thought Austin (Wiley) was terrific and so was Brandon (McCoy). I love the way Kevin Huerter played off the bench, and Carsen (Edwards) played good off the bench. I thought Louis King played well of the bench, and I thought the starters all played pretty well.”
Trading points throughout the first 10 minutes, the USA trailed 18-15 with 3:18 to play in the opening quarter. McCoy made one of two free throws to make it 18-16, and Diallo finished off the quarter with a basket and a 3-pointer to push the USA ahead 21-19.
A Wiley slam pushed the U.S. out in front 27-25, but Lithuania assembled a 12-2 scoring run over the next 2:10 to open a 37-29 advantage with 5:20 left before halftime.
The USA regained control and outscored Lithuania 20-10 over the remainder of the quarter to carry a 49-47 lead into the locker room at halftime.
It was all USA in the second half as an aggressive American defense stymied Lithuania’s offense, and the U.S. outscored Lithuania 22-12 in the third to take charge 71-59.
All Lithuania could muster over the game’s final 10 minutes was one field goal, a 3-pointer and two free throws for seven total points, while the U.S. scored 18 to finish on top 89-66.
“We’re not where we need to be defensively. That is the whole key to what we’re doing,” said Calipari. “Offensively, I thought we shared the ball, but we still held it a couple of times where we didn’t need to hold it. We need to have that ball bouncing around the court.”
The USA will meet medal favorite France in another friendly on Thursday, then train on Friday. As the 2013 and 2015 FIBA U19 World Champion, the United States will look for a third-consecutive gold medal at the July 1-9 FIBA U19 World Cup for Men in Cairo, Egypt.
The United States will open preliminary round action versus Iran on July 1 (11:30 a.m. EDT), then face Angola on July 2 (12:15 p.m. EDT) and will cap preliminary round action versus Italy on July 4 (10:30 a.m. EDT).
Following the preliminary round, all 16 teams will be seeded according to group play results and will advance to the July 5 round of 16. Winners will advance to the July 7 medal quarterfinals, while the remaining teams will continue playing out for classification. The medal semifinals will be held July 8, and the gold and bronze medal games are slated for July 9.