"There were times when we had a lot of energy, but then we didn't convert on the other end and our energy dissipated," said USA and Saint Joseph's University (Pa.) head coach Phil Martelli. "One of the things we have to remember is that these guys are young. This event is called the (FIBA) Young Men's World Championship (now the U21 World Championship) for a reason. I'm confident now that we have their attention."
Slovenia went up 9-7 at 7:09, but the United States scored 10 unanswered points in a 14-2 run which closed the quarter with the U.S. on top 21-11. Redick had six points in the first 10 minutes as six different players scored for the good guys.
The USA was unable to pull away through the first 7:44 of the second stanza and with 2:16 before the half the red, white and blue still held onto a 10-point, 37-27 lead. However, the United States put more pressure on the Europeans and forced three turnovers while closing the half on a 9-0 run. By halftime the gap had been extended to 19 points, 46-27, and the game seemed to be put away.
A Curtis Withers (Charlotte / Charlotte, N.C.) bucket opened the second half, giving the USA its largest lead of the game, 48-27 at 9:40. However, Slovenia started to pressure defensively and run the ball offensively. Their change of pace resulted in seven straight points from Zogorc Ziga in a 14-2 run that closed Slovenia's deficit to 50-41 with 16:20 to go in the game. Redick nailed a three at 5:25, but Slovenia again posted a run and cut it to six at 3:21, 53-47. But that was as close as the Slovenians would come.
"We knew that they were going to make a run in the second half," said Redick. Against Lithuania I think they were down about 22 at halftime and they cut it to five. We just got sloppy with the ball a little bit and stopped making stops."
Closing out the third period with an 8-3 run behind three different players, the United States continued the run in the opening minutes of the fourth and with 8:43 to go in the game the lead was increased to 66-50.
"I think we got a little careless with the ball," said Nick Fazekas (Nevada / Arvada, Colo.). "We started turning it over and didn't get the good shots that we needed to get. I don't think their press effected us as much, maybe it rushed us a little bit. With the press, they buy some time on the shot clock and then you have to get down and you don't have as much time to run your offense. But those were our mistakes."
Regaining its composure in the fourth quarter, the United States closed out the game with the eventual 81-66 victory.
In addition to Redick's contribution, which came from shooting 5-of-8 from 3-point; Fazekas, who scored seven of the USA's final 11 points in the first half, shot a perfect 6-of-6 from the field and finished with 13 points; while Terrence Roberts (Syracuse / Jersey City, N.J.) had 10. Marcus Williams (Connecticut / Los Angeles, Calif.) passed off for a game-high six of the USA's 21 assists and Rajon Rondo (Kentucky / Louisville, Ky.) dished out four.
For the second night in a row the United States' defensive pressure produced a lopsided turnover margin as the red, white and blue forced 40 Slovenian turnovers, committing just 27 of their own, while being credited with 23 steals. Rudy Gay (Connecticut / Baltimore, Md.) was tops in the pilfering department with a game-high seven to go with his nine points. Outrebounding Slovenia by a slim 32-38 margin, the U.S. allowed its opponents to snatch just four offensive boards.
"My concern all day today was human nature," said Martelli. "Do you think you're better than you really are because you won a game big last night? That was a big lesson learned. Obviously if we turned the ball over 27 times, that's not a real good performance. And our perimeter guys didn't make shots. I always think that you look better and people feel better if the ball goes in the basket."
Acting as Martelli's assistants are collegiate head coaches James ‘Bruiser' Flint from Drexel University (Pa.) and Dennis Felton from the University of Georgia.
2005 USA U21 World Championship Team After the conclusion of the Global Games and following two more days of practices, July 31 and Aug. 1 (sites and times TBD), the American team will travel to Mar del Plata, Argentina, for its final practices before tipping off play at the 2005 FIBA U21 World Championship against China on Aug. 5 at 3:30 p.m. (all U21 World Championship times EDT). The United States will then face Lithuania on Aug. 6 at 2:30 p.m. and Puerto Rico on Aug. 7 at 6:30 p.m. Following a day off, the USA is slated to face Nigeria on Aug. 9 at 3:00 p.m. and will close out preliminary round play on Aug. 10 with a 12:45 p.m. contest against Slovenia. The quarterfinals, semifinals and finals will be played Aug. 12-14.
Contested Aug. 5-14 in Cordoba and Mar del Plata, Argentina, the 2005 FIBA Men's U21 World Championship will consist of 12 national teams split into two groups for preliminary round-robin play. The top four teams in each group will advance to the medal quarterfinals, while the 5th and 6th place finishing teams in each group will compete for 9th-12th place.
Initiated in 1993 as the FIBA 22 & Under World Championship, the USA captured gold in the inaugural tournament with a perfect 8-0 record. In 1997, the Americans compiled a 5-2 record and finished fifth. Most recently in 2001, with the event known as the FIBA World Championship For Young Men and Martelli assisting on the sidelines, the USA was impressive, rolling to an unblemished 8-0 mark to capture gold.
The USA men are not only defending FIBA World Champs at the U21 level, but the U.S. squad last summer dominated its FIBA Americas competition in striking gold with a 5-0 record. Overall, in the three previous FIBA World Championships for this age group, the USA has won gold twice and compiled a 22-2 record.