Behind Patrick Beverley’s (Arkansas / Chicago, Ill.) game-high 20 points and 10 points from Oregon's Tajuan Porter, the 2007 USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team (7-0) surged past Argentina (3-4) in the opening quarter and earned a 112-86 quarterfinal victory at the 2007 FIBA U19 World Championship on Friday afternoon in Novi Sad, Serbia. The U.S. will have a rematch against France (5-2) in Saturday’s 8:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m.) semifinal match-up, while Serbia (6-1) will face Brazil (4-3) for the right to play for the gold medal on Sunday.
In addition to Beverley, the U.S. received 16 points from Raymar Morgan (Michigan State / Canton, Ohio), Michael Beasley (Notre Dame Prep, Mass./ Frederick, Md.) chipped in 13, Stephen Curry (Davidson / Charlotte, N.C.) and Jonny Flynn (Niagara Falls H.S. / Niagara Falls, N.Y.) had 12 points apiece, while David Lighty (Ohio State / Cleveland, Ohio) and Porter (Oregon / Detroit, Mich.) each contributed 10 points.
France earned its trip to the semifinal by defeating Spain (4-3) 100-83. In the other side of the quarterfinal bracket, Brazil upset previously undefeated Australia (6-1) 73-72, while host Serbia knocked off Turkey (3-4) 94-56. Interestingly, all four of Group E's top four teams advanced to the medal semifinals so each team has already met in pre-medals round action.
"Having experience playing Argentina last year in the 18-and-unders and then seeing them down in the Global Games, even though we didn’t play them, we knew they were a team that was going to be a really hard match-up for us," said USA and DePaul University head coach Jerry Wainwright. "We probably could have played small the whole game and it would have been the same result, but I tried to get our big guys some reps and the way (Argentina plays), it’s hard to play (them). I was really disappointed in our defense. We fouled way too much. The game was called a way that was very physical and for a minute there we lost our composure, but got it back. I think we finished the game the right way.
"Our core guys, the David Lightys the Patrick Beverleys, the Johnny Flynns, the Stephan Currys, the Raymar Morgans, that core of guys have really been good. Mike Beasley and Deon Thompson, under tough circumstances guarding smaller guys did a really good job."
The first four minutes of play featured a pair of lead changes as Argentina went ahead 9-7. It was a short-lived bit of glory for the USA’s South American rivals.
Beverley swished in the USA’s first trey of the game, which was followed by another three from Morgan and the U.S. was off and running. Eventually stringing together a 13-0 run, capped by another three from Porter, by 3:55 the squad was in control 20-9.
By the end of the first quarter the U.S. was on top 33-15 and expanded the margin to 62-40 by halftime.
Argentina came out of the locker room on fire, while the U.S. went flat on both ends and with just under five minutes to go in the quarter the cushion was cut to 13 points, 70-57.
"They came out and didn’t hold anything back," said Beverley, who also passed out four assists and grabbed six caroms. "Everybody in the tournament knows that you lose, you go home. That’s the mentality I guess they came out with but we just have to keep our composure, finish plays. It was a really aggressive game, neither team wanted to lose and it got really aggressive. That’s the game of basketball, sometimes you have games like that. But as I said before, we just have to keep our composure and try to come out with a victory."
The USA finally found its rhythm after Porter drove for a high-arching floater to jump-start an 11-0 run that featured seven points from Beverley and ended with the U.S. up 81-57.
Argentina again cut it to 15 points after going on a 9-0 spurt that began in the third quarter and was capped with 8:57 remaining in the game and the score 83-68. Argentina continued its relentless defense and by the 5:07 mark the USA’s lead was down to 91-80.
Feeling good about their chances, the Argentines tightened up their defense even more, but all it did was result in the USA scoring all of its points from the line in an 8-2 run that ended with four minutes to play and the margin up to 99-82.
The U.S. gave up a field goal to Argentina at 4:07 before getting back on track with 10 unanswered points to put the game out of reach 109-84 with a minute and a half to go.
"As was said in Star Wars, we sometimes go to a land far, far away and we get so caught up in the emotion," added Wainwright, who called a time out to regroup when the score was 70-55. "We don’t do a good job understanding time and score. We take quick shots. We’ve given away a lot of leads. All you have to do is give one away at the wrong time and it’s going to cost you three weeks of hard work. I tried to remind them of that. I told them to keep their composure and we wanted a certain kind of shot. We made an adjustment defensively and tried to finish the game on a high note."
Deon Thompson (North Carolina / Torrance, Calif.) grabbed a game-best 10 boards to go with four points and a pair of assists, while Beasley, Donté Greene (Towson Catholic H.S. / Baltimore, Md.) and Lighty each had seven rebounds.
The USA outrebounded Argentina 51-32 and had 16 steals in the game. However, only nine were credited to players as FIBA doles out team steals when it’s unclear who made the actual steal. The United States also proved its worth from beyond the arc, netting 35.7 percent (10-28 3pt FGs) on the night.
In what was an extremely physical game, the officials whistled a total of 60 fouls that resulted in 40 (30-40 FTs) trips to the line for the U.S. and 28 for Argentina (17-28 FTs). Additionally, Argentina had three players foul out of the game.
In consolation play, Lithuania (3-4) decimated South Korea (2-5) 127-74 and Canada (4-3) chipped China (1-6) 94-90 in overtime.
Wainwright, who served as an assistant for the 2006 USA U18 National Team, is heading up the 2007 USA U19 World Championship Team coaching staff, and collegiate head coaches Bruiser Flint of Drexel University (Pa.) and George Washington University’s (D.C.) Karl Hobbs are serving as assistant coaches.