An Impressive effort from start to finish led the USA (4-0) to a record-breaking 132-60 defeat of South Korea (0-4) in the round of 16 matchup, advancing USA to the quarterfinals at the 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup for Men in Riga, Latvia. The USA finished with U19 men’s single-game records in points (132), rebounds (62), assists (39), field goals made (57) and field goals attempted (92).
In this wire-to-wire win, the Americans came out strong winning the first quarter 31-17 and ending the quarter on a 12-3 run over the final 1:41. Peyton Watson (Long Beach Poly H.S./Long Beach Calif.) came out ready, scoring seven points and grabbing three rebounds to get things started in the opening quarter.
“The opportunities came to me and I was ready when they did,” said Watson. They decided to put me in the starting lineup, and I wanted to come out with a spark, and I think I contributed and played my part very well.”
In the second quarter, the USA opened the game up, going on a 13-0 run from the 6:04 mark to the 2:26 mark in the quarter and ended the final stanza on a 19-4 run to close the half. Kenneth Lofton Jr. (Louisiana Tech/Port Arthur, Texas) went a perfect 6-of-6 from the field in the first half with 12 points and four rebounds to help lead the USA to a 59-30 advantage at halftime.
“Well, he’s (Lofton Jr.) really a tough guy to defend, said USA head coach Jamie Dixon (TCU). We have good passing, and then he really finished around the rim, gets his back to the basket, gets offensive rebounds, and can score on dump offs. So, it is a good combination, and he is pretty good from the free throw line.”
The USA had all 12 players score in the game and eight players finish with double-digit efforts. The Americans were led by Chet Holmgren (Minnehaha Academy/Minneapolis, Minn.) who recorded a double-double off the bench with 17 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and three blocks; Watson with a near double-double of 15 points, nine rebounds, six assists, one steal and a USA U19 record-tying four blocks; Lofton finished with 14 points, six rebounds and one steal. Caleb Furst (Blackhawk Christian Academy/Fort Wayne, Ind.) added 14 points, five rebounds, one steal and one block, Patrick Baldwin Jr. (Hamilton H.S./Sussex, Wis.) tallied 12 points, nine rebounds, and four assists; Ryan Kalkbrenner (Creighton/St. Louis, Mo.) chipped in 12 points, five rebounds and three blocks; Jaden Ivey (Purdue/Mishawaka, Ind.) finished with 11 points, two rebounds, three assists and one steal; while Adam Miller contributed 11 points, two rebounds, seven assists and two steals.
“It felt like a lot of fun, we had a lot of guys play a great game and put up some great numbers and we had fun doing it,” said Holmgren. “We’re loving getting each other going and sharing the ball. We’re building confidence, building chemistry, finding our rhythm and I think things are going pretty well.”
The USA kept its foot on the gas in the second half, outscoring South Korea 29-16 in the third quarter, 45-14 in the fourth quarter, and 74-30 overall in the half. The Americans ended the final 4:23 of the game on a 23-4 run with Miller scoring eight points during that stretch.
“We got eight guys in double figures, our goal was to have 40 assists, we had 39, so we really passed it and stayed unselfish the entire game, which is a challenge, said Dixon. “We were really kind of preaching to all to come together and realize we really need to become more unselfish with the basketball from training camp and we have.”
The USA won the rebounding differential 62-25, dished out 39 assists, forced South Korea into 23 turnovers leading to 40 points, and outscored South Korea 94-30 in the paint. The USA also recorded 10 blocked shots in the game, and currently leads the FIBA U19 World Cup in total blocks with 33. The USA also leads the FIBA U19 World Cup in total points (402), assists (111) and is second in total rebounds (224).
“This performance shows how close we are as a group, said Watson. “We’re all like brothers in here, we all love each other and love making each other look good and sharing the ball with each other. I think that showed out on the court today.”
The Americans will play Senegal (2-2) next in the quarterfinals on Friday, July 9, at 11:00 a.m. EDT, and with a win would advance to the semifinals on June 10. The finals are scheduled for July 11.
“The process continues here, these 48 hours we will try to get better, and that includes getting rest,” said Dixon.
In the other games from today, France (3-1) downed Mali (0-4) 86-52, Serbia (4-0) edged Japan (0-4) 89-86, Spain (3-1) took down Australia (1-3) 86-73, Lithuania (3-1) pounded Iran (1-3) 96-53, Argentina (3-1) nipped Turkey (2-2) 76-74, Senegal defeated host Latvia (2-2) 57-44 and Canada (4-0) took care of Puerto Rico (1-3) 86-56.
Assisting Dixon on the USA sidelines are assistant coaches Jerod Haase (Stanford) and James Jones (Yale).
Reigning FIBA U19 World Cup gold medalist, USA men’s teams have won seven gold medals, three silver medals and one bronze medal while compiling an 102-14 overall record in U19 World Cup play since the event was launched in 1979. Even more impressive, the USA has won four of the past six U19 golds since 2009.
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