HERAKLION, Crete, Greece – Trailing by as many as seven points in the exhibition game, the USA Men’s U19 World Championship Team rallied back to outscore Greece 32-21 in the fourth quarter to capture a 90-82 victory in a warm-up game for the FIBA U19 World Championship that begins July 27 in Heraklon, Greece.
Caleb Swanigan (Homestead H.S./Fort Wayne, Ind.) led the Americans with 16 points, with 10 coming in the fourth quarter, Jalen Brunson (Stevenson H.S./Lincolnshire, Ill.) accounted for 15 points and nine assists; L.J. Peak (Georgetown/Gaffney, S.C.) drained 3-of-4 3-pointers and finished with 13 points.
Harry Giles (Wesleyan Christian Academy/Winston-Salem, N.C.) tossed in 12 points; and Josh Jackson (Prolific Prep, Calif./Southfield, Mich.) recorded a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds. Chinanu Onauku (Louisville/Lanham, Md.) scored three points and added nine boards and three blocked shots.
“We’ve obviously only been together for a short period of time, so an experience like this where we have crowd, playing the home team, the travel as well, it took almost 24 hours by the time we left Colorado Springs, so this being just one day since, it allowed us to work a lot of things out,” stated USA and University of Arizona head coach Sean Miller.
“We played against a very well-coached and disciplined team and we had to fight hard. It’s interesting that in the fourth quarter we pulled away. I thought our depth and our pressure eventually started to favor us.
“At the half I think the (rebounding) margin was down one in terms of the differential in rebounding. We ended the game plus 13, so obviously us doing a better job defensive rebounding and getting more second shots was a big reason we won.
“And like always, it’s a team win, but I thought Caleb Swanigan, his time in the second half was a big boost to our team. He had timely baskets and he had really big rebounds. I thought he played exceptional at a time of great need for us.”
Opening the final quarter trailing Greece by three points, 61-58, Peak hit a 3-pointer to tie the game but Greece scored on its next possession to take its final lead of the night, 63-61.
With Swanigan leading the charge with eight points, the USA ripped off 11 straight points in a span of 2:32 to open a 72-63 advantage with 4:57 left in the game and Greece never got closer than seven points from there.
The U.S. shot 45.5 percent from the field and 42.9 from 3-point, while Greece was limited to 40.6 percent shooting overall and just 4-of-15 (26.7 percent) from 3-point. The USA outrebounded Greece 48-35, with 17 offensive rebounds leading to 15 second chance points. Greece committed14 turnovers, the U.S. had 13, and the USA had assists on 23 of its 35 made baskets.
“We fouled a lot in the first quarter and when you foul a lot it slows the game down even though we want it to speed up,” said Sean Miller. “Once we got through the first quarter, and again that’s what’s great about us playing a game today, our players have to adjust to the officials, especially in our pressure. So we did a better job of not fouling and that also helped us.”
The USA made 14-of-22 from the foul line, while Greece out did the USA, shooting 26-of-33 from the charity line.
The USA U19 World Championship Team, whose training continues through June 26 in Heraklion, will look to defend its 2013 U19 gold at the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship that is being held June 27-July 5.