Tuesday, July 5, 2011

FIBA U19 World Championship -- USA Squeezes by Lithuania, Takes Control of Group F

USA 107 Lithuania 105
Team USA survived a 13-1 Lithuanian onslaught that lasted through the last minute of regulation and into the first two minutes of overtime, to defeat Team Lithuania by two and take control of Group F play with a 5-0 record. With two ticks left on the clock in overtime and the score knotted at 105, Connecticut's Jeremy Lamb nailed a two pointer that capped a 12-4 USA run in a game labeled by FIBA as the game of the day thereby avenging a humiliating 33 point loss to Lithuania in exhibition play two days before the start of the U19 World Championship. How did it come down to a last shot? With a minute left and a six point cushion, heretofore reliable members of the USA squad seemed to suffer a collective brain freeze as they let an extremely energetic Lithuanian squad back into the game with a 6-0 run. Memphis point guard Joe Jackson committed a turnover that led to a Lithuanian bucket, then Creighton's Doug McDermott took an ill-advised last second shot that missed. Florida's Patric Young missed two free throws (fouled while grabbing the offensive rebound), and Lithuania hit a buzzer shot to knot the score at 94 at the end of regulation. Team Lithuania tacked another 7-1 run on top of their 6-0 run to build a 101-95 lead before Team USA caught their collective breath and went to work putting together a 10-4 run of their own to set up Lamb's heroic last second shot. Jeremy Lamb paced all scorers with a prolific 35 points on 13-23 (5-7, 8-16) shooting from the field and 4-5 from the line. Lithuanian center Jonas Valanciunas paced the Lithuanians with 30 of his own, coming on 11-20 (0-0, 11-20) shooting from the floor and 8-10 from the line. The 6-11 low post player grabbed a monstrous 15 (6-9-15) rebounds to lead all the glass cleaners and post a double-double, one of two recorded by Lithuanians. Four other Team USA squad members, Jackson (19 points), Patric Young (15 points), McDermott (13 points) and Tim Hardaway Jr, himself a last minute hero in the two point win over Team Serbia last Friday, scored 10 points. McDermott and Tony Mitchell tied for most American rebounds, each snagging eight. Three Lithuanians also scored in double digits, Edgaras Ulanovas (29 points), Doyydas Redikas, starting in place of injured point guard Vytenis Cizauskas, scored 29 points and Arnas Butkevicius (10 points). Redikas made the most of his chance to fill in for Cizauskas, grabbing 10 (5-5-10) rebounds, producing the second Lithuanian double-double of the game.

Mulling over the game boxscore to develop some possession-based stats for the game...


The pace is adjusted for a 40 minute game, and more comfortable for Team USA than Team Lithuania. Overall the two teams had about 95 possessions for the four periods and overtime. Despite the end-of-regulation hiccup, Team USA used their 95 possessions more efficiently than Team Lithuania. While the Lithuanians "won" on efficient shooting (55.5% vs. 49.4% eFG%), Team USA actually had more opportunities, complements of turnovers (an outstanding 14.7% vs. 19.9%) and ironically, foul shooting. Though Lithuania got to the line more often than the Americans (35 vs 30), they converted only 24 of their attempts, only three more than the Americans (21). Had Lithuania matched USA efficiency at the charity stripe -- 70% -- they would have won by two. Lithuanian point guard Vytenis Cizauskas was a last minute DNP. The 6-2 pulse of the Lithuanian back court rolled his ankle in the Lithuania-Serbia game on July 4, and though not perceived as serious after the game, the condition of the ankle deteriorated during the night. Despite a warmup, Cizauskas was held out by Lithuanian Head Coach Kazys Maksvytis. Here is hoping Cizauskas has a speedy recovery and will be back in action for the medal rounds (if not tomorrow).

Other Group F Play Today


With their loss to the Canadians, Team Egypt will be consigned to the #9-#12 classification rounds at the conclusion of Group F play. Croatia, which stunned Lithuania to open the tournament a week ago, stumbled against Team Serbia, creating a logjam for second place in Group F. With only four of the six Group F teams scheduled to advance to the Medal Rounds, the question is who will be the last cut? Team Canada, with their win over Team Egypt kept hope alive, and will settle the last spot issue on the court with Team Serbia tomorrow. Group F standings...


FIBA ranks Serbia, the winner over Croatia today lower because of their overall points for/points against margin (10 vs. 9). Serbia holds the tie-breaker over Croatia, so should the Serbs beat the Canadians tomorrow (and the Croatians beat the Americans...), Team Serbia will most likely receive the higher seed going into the Quarterfinal Round Friday. Should Serbia lose to Canada, the two teams will be tied at 3-3, and the Canadians (most likely, especially if they beat Serbia by four or more points) will advance to the Quarterfinal Round (either F3 or F4 on the Team USA site).

Bell Tones
Villanova's wing James Bell logged 23 minutes of play and scored two points on 1-5 (0-1, 1-4) shooting. He grabbed 3 rebounds (all on the Lithuanians' boards) and dished an assist.

Who's Got Next?
Team USA will close out Group F play with Team Croatia, the game scheduled to start at 2:30pm Riga time (7:30 EDST). The Croatians beat Lithuania to open the tournament, but have stumbled against the Serbs and South Koreans. The two countries have faced off five times since 1997, Team USA holding a 4-1 edge. While Team USA is guaranteed the top Group F seed going into the Quarterfinal Round, Croatia will play for their seed (or in some scenarios, survival). Should they beat Team USA they will advance to the Quarterfinal Round with the #2 seed from Group F (F2). Should they lose, the situation becomes...complicated, their fate depending on the result of the Team Serbia-Team Canada game.

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