KAZEN, Russia – After a first-half fight, the 2013 USA Basketball Men’s World University Games Team (3-0) outscored Sweden (0-3) 27-17 in the third quarter to improve a 10-point halftime lead to a comfortable 20-point margin on its way to an eventual 83-65 win on Thursday night at Basket Hall 1 in Kazan, Russia.
Trailing 27-26 at 4:24 in the second period, the USA strung together 11 unanswered points to lead 37-27 at the midway point, and that momentum carried into the second half, which saw the USA improve its shooting from 39.4 percent (13-33 FGs) from the field to 56.3 percent (9-16 FGs) in the third quarter to pull away from Sweden.
Yogi Ferrell (Indiana/Indianapolis, Ind.) led the Americans with 20 points, including 4-of-7 shooting from 3-point, while Treveon Graham (VCU/Temple Hills, Md.) added 14 points and seven boards. Cory Jefferson (Baylor/ Killeen, Texas) grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds to go with his eight points, and Spencer Dinwiddie (Colorado/Woodland Hills, Calif.) dished out a game-high six assists.
Dinwiddie, the lone Pac-12 Conference player on the roster, played a team-high 26 minutes, also scored six points with four rebounds and one steal.
“It’s helpful to do both (win by a large margin and be tested),” Dinwiddie said on what the USA Team learned from playing Sweden. “Before you play the best of the best, which is probably Serbia, Russia and Canada, you do want to have some close games against a little higher competition so you don’t have a false sense of security.”
“At the same time, we’ve been trying to just improve every game and even when you when by 40 or 90, it’s a learning experience because you still didn’t play perfect even when you win by those large numbers.”
The first quarter saw three tied scores, as neither team was able to pull away. Graham, Jefferson and Adreian Payne (Michigan State/Dayton, Ohio) combined to help the USA take a 9-4 lead at 6:04, but Sweden fought back to within one point, 11-10, by the 2:45 mark, and then led 15-14 with a 3-pointer at 46.4 seconds. A made free-throw from Tyler Haws (BYU/Alpine, Utah) tied the game at 15-all before Sweden’s Chris Czerapowicz, who plays for USA head coach McKillop at Davidson College, sank a 3-pointer at 19.0 seconds. Ferrell answered right back with his own three at 1.2 seconds, and the USA headed into the second stanza leading 18-17.
The second quarter saw the USA put up the first four points before the teams traded baskets until 6:10, when Czerapowicz once again gave his side a lead with a 3-pointer, 27-26. This time, Luke Hancock (Louisville/ Roanoke, Va.) answered for the USA, and his two points were the start of the 11-0 spurt that saw the red, white and blue finish the first half ahead 37-27.
“Our offense was a little sluggish,” Ferrell said of the first half. “We were trying to make too many ‘home runs’ as coach says, shoot too many threes and we weren’t really hitting but we kept shooting. I felt we finished out the half pretty well with a 10-point lead. We kind of got it inside a little more, and then we kind of opened it up in the second half.”
That 10-point margin lasted through the start of the third quarter before the USA took control. A made free-throw from Payne at 7:09 was the first of nine-straight points for the USA, which led 51-33 after Dinwiddie pulled up for two points at 4:45. That nine-point cushion proved to be another difference maker, as Sweden nearly kept pace with the USA from there, matching the USA’s next 13 third-quarter points with 11 of its own to trail 64-44 headed into the final 10 minutes.
“First of all, Frank Martin (USA assistant coach) did an outstanding job in terms of preparing our team,” said USA head coach Bob McKillop (Davidson College). “We knew they were going to hold the ball. We knew they were going to work the clock. We knew they were going to tempt us to get a little too aggressive offensively and then become almost a half-court team, allowing them to run their sets. In the second half, we became a little bit more aggressive in terms of forcing them to run their sets a certain way. We got some stops, and some guys made terrific plays in the open court, but Frank gave us a great scouting report.”
Will Sheehey (Indiana/Stuart, Fla.) scored all seven of his points in the fourth quarter as the U.S. lead reached as high as 27 points, 83-56. Sweden, however, tallied the last nine points of the game to outscore the USA 21-19 in the period and bring the score to its 83-65 final.
“Our defensive pressure and energy was off the charts,” Sheehey said of the second half. “First half, we were a little sluggish on defense. We gave them open shots. Second half, we were closing on defense and got early buckets.”
The USA finished with a 47-34 rebounding advantage and scored 46 of its points in the paint, compared to Sweden’s 26. While the USA’s shooting improved dramatically in the second half, Sweden’s did not. For the game, Sweden shot 38.5 percent (25-65 FGs) from the field and just 28.0 percent from 3-point (7-25 3-pt FGs).
The USA will continue preliminary round play against Australia (2-1) at 6:30 p.m. (times listed are local; Kazan, Russia, is +8 hours from EDT) on July 11, before taking on Canada (3-0) at 1 p.m. on July 12.
Also today in the USA’s Group C, Czech Republic (1-2) beat United Arab Emirates (0-3) 100-54, while Canada remained undefeated with a 92-83 win over Australia. In Group D, Brazil (3-0) beat Chile (0-3) 106-40, Finland (2-1) edged Norway (1-2) 60-55 and Lithuania (3-0) cruised past China (0-3) 129-52.
Following the preliminary round, the first and second-placed teams in each of the four pools advance to the medal quarterfinals on July 14 to compete for first through eighth places; while the remaining teams will play out for ninth to 24th places. The semifinals will be played on July 15, and the finals will be contested on July 16.
Assisting McKillop on the USA sideline are John Beilein of the University of Michigan and Frank Martin of the University of South Carolina.
The USA is looking for its first gold medal at the World University Games men’s basketball competition since 2005, and currently holds a 141-9 all-time record in World University Games play.