USA Men's U21 Squad Opens 2005 FIBA U21 with win

MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina (August 5, 2005) - The 2005 USA U21 World Championship Team (1-0) got off to a roaring start at the FIBA U21 World Championship after collecting a 117-50 victory over China (0-1) in opening day action in Mar del Plata, Argentina, on Friday evening. Curtis Withers (Charlotte / Charlotte, N.C.), who was a perfect 7-of-7 from the field, led six U.S. players in double digits with 19 points.

Withers' shooting percentage tied Wesley Person's USA U21 single-game record 7-of-7 from the field, which dates to the 1993 tournament. Additionally, Rajon Rondo (Kentucky / Louisville, Ky.) doubled the USA's former single-game steals record after being credited with eight, while the team eclipsed the previous single-game marks for steals with 21 (former record was 15), as well as most 3-point field goals made and attempted with 14-of-31 from 3-point (former records were 12 and 25).

"I didn't realize I had that many, but the thing is, that's what I do," said Rondo. "That's the reason I'm on the team because of my defensive ability. That's what I do at the University of Kentucky so I just try to bring it here. Pressure their point guards as much as I can, get as many steals as I can."

"I thought it was really improved play," said USA and Saint Joseph's University (Pa.) head coach Phil Martelli. " In particular I thought our point guards did a terrific job. Marcus (Williams) had eight assists, Rajon had six, we got multiple steals from that position. they really got us into some things. The sharing of the ball is always good to see, especially when you have guys who are, quote-unquote, all-star type of players. I was pleased overall. It wasn't a competitive situation athletically or talent-wise. But certainly the idea that the ball was moved and there was situation recognition, I thought all of that was positive for us."

The U.S. continues play on Aug. 7 against Lithuania (1-0), which beat Puerto Rico (0-1) this evening 97-81. The game, slated to tip-off at 2:30 EDT, will be a rematch for the two U21 national teams after the United States eked out a 91-86 victory over Lithuania last Friday night at the 2005 Global Games in Frisco, Texas.

Jumping out to a quick start, the young Americans led wire-to-wire after Withers took a Justin Gray (Wake Forest / Charlotte, N.C.) pass inside for the game's first basket at 9:28. China got on the board at 8:29 with a Qingpeng Zhang 3-pointer, but by 7:44 the United States owned a 10-3 advantage. Following a Chinese field goal at 6:11, the United States went off on a 9-0 run to open it up 19-5 with 3:41 still to play in the first period. By the end of 10 minutes the USA's lead was 23-11.

Justin Gray and Rudy Gay (Connecticut / Baltimore, Md.) hit back-to-back threes to open the second quarter and spark a 14-0 run that saw the U.S. advantage balloon to 37-11 with 6:02 before halftime. By the time the midway buzzer sounded, the game was well in hand, 52-19. At the end of three periods the USA was ahead 82-36 and continued to pad its lead through the end of the contest.

"We didn't want to come out in the second half after being up by so much and then let the game slip away," said Allan Ray (Villanova / Bronx, N.Y.). "We came out with the same intensity in the second half as we did in the first half. Maybe even a little bit more. We came out strong. You can say that this was pretty much a statement game."

In addition to Withers' 19 points, the U.S. received 18 from Gay, Taj Gray (Oklahoma / Wichita, Kan.) and Ray scored 14 points apiece, Rondo scored 11 and J.J. Redick (Duke / Roanoke, Va.) tossed in 10. With the exception of Marcus Williams (Connecticut / Los Angeles, Calif.), every player scored no less than five points each. However, Williams had his hand in at least 16 points after passing off for a game-high eight assists, while also being credited for three steals.

China's Zhang scored a team-best 15 points in 38 minutes of action, while Yi Liu and Ke Hu contributed 12 and 10 points, respectively.

The U.S. outrebounded China 41-26, thanks in part to eight boards apiece from Glen Davis (Louisiana State / Baton Rouge, La.), Nick Fazekas (Nevada / Arvada, Colo.) and Withers. Forcing 32 Chinese turnovers, while only coughing the ball up 15 times, the United States had a total of 21 steals and also passed off for 22 assists.


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