In a match-up between the last 2 unbeaten teams in the 2013 U19 tourney, team USA was given its hardest test yet, and as expected they passed with flying colors.
Unlike the previous 5 teams, Serbia played with pose against the high pressure USA defense. In its previous match-ups, the red white and blue were turning teams over more than 20 times per game and while team USA did force 18 turnovers, they were careless with ball themselves turning it over 15 times. This was a close contest all they way through with team USA leading by only 4 with just under 7 minutes to play in the game. As with most close games this came down to outright physical play in the paint and rebounding was key in the USA win as they out rebounded Serbia 46-27. An even more revealing stat of the physical play was that USA won while only attempting 2 3 pointers compared to Serbias 20.
It was obvious that Team USA's big men were dominent in this game, as Montrezl Harrell had nine points and seven boards, another standout was Aaron Gordon (11 pts. 9 rb.) The United States remains the only undefeated team at the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship and joined Spain in taking top honors in their Eight-Final Round groups while Canada and Australia claimed the final two spots in the Quarter-Finals.
Billy Donovan praised Harrell after the game
The U.S. won a tight game, is that going to be beneficial for the team?
Yeah I think it was really good because I think it was a really hard game to officiate. I think there were probably some calls that didn’t go our way, there’re probably calls that didn’t go their way. It was one of those games where there was a lot of physical banging and knocking, we had a lot of guys in foul trouble. Marcus (Smart) never ever got into the flow of the game and the I think the thing with Marcus right now it’s been three consecutive games where he is picking up really silly early fouls that’s putting him on bench. He was really a non-factor in a lot of ways and we won the game without him even playing so that was an encouraging part. I think (Jahlil) Okafor came in the second half and gave us a great post presence and then we went a little bit smaller towards the end of the game and I thought Aaron (Gordon) and Montrezl (Harrell) did a really good job on the glass.
Offensive rebounding by the U.S. in the last 5-6 minutes was strong, it seemed like every rebound that was up for grabs someone from the U.S. was there.
The rebounding was good and then when they cut it to four in the middle of the fourth I thought Rasheed (Sulaimon) put up a couple of big shots. He knocked down a three, had a chance for a three-point play in the lane, and we had a couple of offensive rebounds where we opened up the game from like four right up to 11, those were some big plays that Rasheed made. Really everybody contributed in one way or another. I thought our press was effective in the first half, we probably weren’t as effective in the second half as we needed to be but overall I think it was a game where we can learn a lot from the grind and the battle that went into it.
The U.S. now moves on to the medal round quarterfinals where it’s one (loss) and done in terms of winning gold; the USA will face Canada Friday in its quarterfinals game.
I think tomorrow we’ll just try and regroup a little bit, I think this was a real physical battle and game considering it was really the last game of pool play so to speak, so this game probably took some stuff out of us and probably took some out of them. So we’ll have to try and regroup and prepare to play Canada. They dealt with some injuries early on when the tournament started and they appear to be playing pretty well right now. They’re a talented team and we’ll need to come back and get rejuvenated.