Monday, July 6, 2009

WUG 2009 -- USA Downs Greece by 31; Serbia Next

It Was Close...for About 25 Minutes
The USA and Greece were locked in a 5 point shootout (44-39) going into the locker room at half time. Team USA came out in the 2nd half and exploded. Literally. The Greeks matched their 1st half production, notching 38 points in the 2nd half. Team USA dropped 64 2nd half points on the hapless Greeks to pull away. The 3rd quarter was decisive, as the USA doubled the Greek offensive production 31-15 to blow their 5 point margin out to 21. The discouraged Greeks lost the 4th quarter by another 10 points, leaving the final margin at 31.

Five players (Deon Thompson, Lazar Hayward, Quincy Pondexter, James Anderson and Da'Sean Butler) scored in double figures as all 12 squad members put points on the board. Thompson scored a team high 17 points with Big East player (Marquette's) Lazar Hayward and Quincy Pondexter of Washington contributed 13 points each on (collectively) 6-11 (4-6, 2-5) shooting from the field to go with Pondexter's 9-12 from the line. The USA dominated the Greeks on the boards, pulling down 40% of their own misses and virtually denying the Greeks 2nd chance opportunities by grabbing nearly 85% of the Greek's misses. The game was relatively turnover free, as both squads kept turnover rates under 13%, but that should not imply a "no touch" game. Collectively the teams were whistled for 46 fouls, nearly equally sharing the guilt (22-24 in favor of the Greeks), but the Greeks converted FTAs at a sizzling 81.5% rate, while the USA left points on the table, converting only 70.4% of theirs (improving, but still well behind their European counterparts). The four factors breakdown:


This effort exceeded the USA's game with Finland for offensive efficiency, while matching the South Korean game's rather impressive PPWS of 1.31 (suggesting the USA squad converted FGAs efficiently, but also hit their FTAs). The assist rate (54.8) bested their previous high of 47% versus the South Koreans, indicating the players are beginning to rotate the ball through the post players more consistently than in earlier games. Quotes from squad members (see Butler's response to questions about team chemistry). Individual player efficiency stats...

Anderson, James30.062.51.2538.
Battle, Talor47.540.00.7915.
Booker, Trevor22.566.71.2819.
Brackins, Craig40.062.51.4314.
Butler, Da'Sean50.083.31.6717.
Fisher, Corey52.558.31.1516.313.65.810.0
Hayward, Lazar42.561.11.3130.30.021.418.6
Hummel, Robbie52.550.01.0021.818.10.030.1
Pondexter, Quincy47.540.01.2515.
Thompson, Deon55.080.01.6326.
Turner, Evan30.066.71.4514.339.710.126.3
Varnado, Jarvis30.0100.02.0014.

The starters are highlighted in green. Coach Ryan returned to his three most consistent starters, Da'Sean Butler (West Virginia), Corey Fisher (Villanova) and Deon Thompson (North Carolina). Lazar Hayward, the last of the Big East trio and Purdue's Robbie Hummel rounded out the starting five, though from each player's %PT, it is clear the staff distributed the time fairly evenly through the squad. The starters received 51% of the PT. Hayward, Butler and Craig Brackins (Iowa State) all registered impressive rebounding rates on the offensive boards.

The Greeks attempted only 1 in 4 FGAs from beyond the arc, a stunning change of strategy from their three previous games, punched the ball inside to 6-9 center Savas Tzougkarakis who converted more efficiently than any Greek not named Verginis, going 6-12 from the field (all 2FGAs) and 9-11 at the line to provide secondary support for Verginis with 21 points. Point guard Dimitrios Verginis hit a sizzling 9-17 (0-1 from 3s) and 7-8 from the line to carry Greece with a game high 25 points. The rest of the Greek squad shot an appalling 30.6% from the field (8-21, 3-15). Their saving grace was the free throw line, where the Greek squad (minus Verginis and Tzougkarakis) 5 of 6 FTAs for 85% conversion rate. The Greek's 2nd and 3rd scoring threats in this tournament, guard Dimitrios Kompodietas and forward Sotirios Manolopoulos, were simply not a factor in this game, going a collective 2-9 (2-5, 0-4) from the field and 2-2 from the line.

What's Next?
In an odd seeding quirk, the USA squad will play Serbia in the second game of Preliminary Round #2. The game is set for 7/7 at 8:00pm Belgrade time (2:00pm EDT). Serbia defeated Finland 82-70 today (Monday 7/6), so there is no chance of a three-way tie in Group I. The USA and Serbia are competing for seed in the quarter final round, as they both will advance, irrespective of the outcome of their second tilt. Tomorrow's winner will get the 2nd place finisher from Group L, the loser of the Bulgaria-Turkey game, the loser will draw the Group L winner (the winner of Bulgaria-Turkey). From the quotes page, West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler (Newark, NJ) on round #2 with Serbia...
Q:  Are you looking forward to playing Serbia again?
A:  Definitely. I feel like they got us the first time. They have been playing together for a while, and we are starting to get the hang of playing with each other and knowing what people's weaknesses and strengths are. I think it will be a better match up than last time.

Let's hope the boys are rested and ready.

Additional Links
The AP wire story posted at USA Basketball.
The box score in .pdf format.
Some additional post game quotes.

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