Not more than 48 hours after arriving in Kazan, Russia, the 2013 USA Basketball Men’s World University Games Team (1-0) celebrated the Fourth of July holiday with a 96-60 exhibition win against Russian professional club UNICS on Thursday night at Basket Hall 1.
Leading 23-21 after the first quarter, the USA was tied at 34-all before it closed the last four minutes of the first half with a 22-6 run to take control of the game and a 56-40 lead at halftime.
“Out of the gate, with the fatigue factor that we’ve had in the travel and the limited practices we’ve had, I was very pleased with our level of intensity,” said USA head coach Bob McKillop (Davidson College). “The way we’ve picked up the offense, the ball was a spotlight and it wasn’t shining on any one person, it was distributed. When the spotlight shines on everybody, we’ll be very good.”
Fourteen points from Luke Hancock (Louisville/ Roanoke, Va.) led six U.S. players who reached in double figures as all 12 U.S. players scored. Doug McDermott (Creighton/Ames, Iowa) finished with 13 points, and Tyler Haws (BYU/Alpine, Utah) added 12. Tallying 11 points apiece were: Treveon Graham (VCU/Temple Hills, Md.), who also grabbed eight boards to finish as the USA’s player of the game; Will Sheehey (Indiana/Stuart, Fla.); andAaron White (Iowa/Strongsville, Ohio), who shot a perfect 3-of-3 from the field and 4-of-4 from the free throw line.
“I thought we played well,” Hancock said. “We were more worried about effort than anything else, and we went out there and played hard. It’s kind of weird adjusting to the time and everything, but it feels good to get out there and play well and play hard and get the first one out of the way.”
Four 3-pointers for the red, white and blue in the game’s first five minutes, including eight points from Hancock, helped the USA compile a 16-5 advantage with a long ball from Graham at 5:07. UNICS fought back, however, and scored an offensive rebound that kick started a 16-7 run for the Russians to bring them within two points of the USA at the first buzzer, 23-21.
The first five minutes of the second period saw the lead change hands four times with two tied scores, and the scoreboard read 34-34 after a UNICS bucket at 4:43. A three-point play from Sheehey ignited the USA, which saw seven U.S. players combine for 22 points while the U.S. defense held Russia to just six points to lead 56-40 at halftime.
Five of the eventual 12 turnovers the USA forced Russia into came in the second quarter, and while the USA shot just 37.5 percent from inside the arc in the first 10 minutes, it heated up to 78.6 percent from two-point land in the second period.
“I thought we played well,” McDermott said. “We sort of had a slow start, but once we got clicking and got stops, it led us on to good things on offense. I thought it was a good opening game.”
While UNICS never quit fighting, it got no closer than within 12 points early in the second half, and thanks to points from 10 players in the stanza, including seven from White and six from Hancock, the USA lead comfortably, 72-55, headed into the final 10 minutes.
Perhaps the USA’s most dominate quarter came in the fourth, with the Americans tallying 22 points while holding UNICS to just five. Two free throws from White put the games last two points on the board and gave the USA its largest lead of the game, a 34-point, 94-60 win.
“It was different; the competition is definitely different than what we’re used to,” Sheehey said. “The bigs were aggressive inside and outside. Everyone can play, usually you can key on guys who can’t shot or what not, but everyone can shoot the ball and everyone is very talented.”
Led by an impressive eight assists from Yogi Ferrell (Indiana/Indianapolis, Ind.), the USA finished with 18 assists overall, and won the rebounding battle 56-37.
After a shoot around and an unofficial scrimmage against the Russia World University Games Team on July 5 the USA will have one more practice on July 6 before it opens preliminary round play in the 2013 World University Games. The USA first meets United Arab Emirates on July 7 at 6:30 p.m. (times listed are local; Kazan, Russia, is +8 hours from EDT); followed by Czech Republic at 1 p.m. on July 8; Sweden at 9 p.m. on July 10; Australia at 6:30 p.m. on July 11; and Canada at 1 p.m. on July 12.
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 andFrank 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 138-9 all-time record in World University Games play.