In Group A action, Argentina (2-0) beat the Bahamas (0-2) 106-70, while Canada (2-0) downed the Dominican Republic (0-2) 94-74. The 10:00 p.m. (all times local) game tonight features Puerto Rico (1-0) competing against Venezuela (0-1), which arrived in Halifax earlier today. The U.S. closes preliminary round play against Puerto Rico July 30 at 6:00 p.m.
"I thought that starting off you could tell that not playing last night affected us a little bit because we didn't get our jitters out," said USA and University of Oklahoma head coach Kelvin Sampson. "We played really hurky-jerky, we didn't play with a flow, we didn't have any rhythm early. We had some calls go against us, we weren't shooting the ball really well, even though we were getting great shots. I don't think anybody panicked or lost their composure. We went into halftime up six, but it could have been much bigger. In the second half, we made some slight adjustments and our kids really fed off that. We got going with our break. When this team rebounds, they're hard to play against because they're so good in transition."
The United States and Brazil did battle the entire first half, which saw the score see-saw nine times with a trio of knotted scores thrown in for good measure. The U.S. finally grabbed the lead for good, 37-35, on a Charlie Villanueva(Connecticut / Brooklyn, N.Y.) bucket with 2:25 remaining before the halftime buzzer.
After May got the game started off an Adams inside feed, Brazil reeled off eight unanswered points in a 13-2 run that left the USA trailing 13-4 with 5:35 remaining in the first quarter. Taking a time out to readjust, the red, white and blue closed the gap to 15-13 at 2:34 with the aid of a pair of steals from Adams and five points from May. But each time the U.S. took a stab at Brazil, the South Americans countered and by the end of 10 minutes of play, the USA trailed 23-19.
Brazil went up 25-19 to open the second quarter. However, the U.S. responded with a 7-0 run in which three players scored. From there neither squad managed more than a three-point lead and after a 5-0 spurt by Adams, the U.S. retained a 33-30 edge. Brazil tied it at 35-apiece with 2:38 to go in the first stanza on a traditional three-point play. Following Villanueva's basket that put the U.S. ahead for good, he and May outscored Brazil 6-2 to close the half with the U.S. holding its largest lead up to that point, 41-35.
"I was really encouraging," said Sampson regarding his halftime talk. "I told them that we didn't hit shots, we had some bad breaks. I thought some things went against us, but we fought hard for that six-point lead before halftime. I thought that if we came out and played really hard the first four or five minutes, we could stretch that lead out. I told our shooters, especially Bracey (Wright) and Mustafa (Shakur), 'if you're open, shoot it. Don't ever worry about me taking you out for missing open shots if you're a shooter.' That paid off for Justin, he got going in the second half."
After halftimeJustin Gray (Wake Forest / Charlotte, N.C.), who scored all of his six points in the first five minutes of the third quarter, tossed in a 3-pointer as the U.S. extended its lead to 44-35 at 8:56. Brazil scored the next two field goals and closed to within five points, 44-39, with 7:54 to play in the third period.
However, the USA turned up the heat on its transition defense and froze any comeback hopes Brazil may have been harboring. Chris Paul (Wake Forest / Lewisville, N.C.) got the team going with a jumper at 7:23, sparking a 12-0 scoring spree that split the game wide open, 56-39, with 5:21 to play. Adams scored six of the USA's points during that time, two from an inside lob from Gray for a dunk, two came from put-back, and another two points he converted after picking a Brazilian's pocket.
"They came out playing well, I can't take that from them," said Gray. "They came out and jumped right on us. They tried to sustain their lead, we had to fight them for every basket. We weren't making baskets and they had good looks. But as the second half started, we started making some of the shots. That little push right before the half put us up by six right before halftime and that was big for us."
Closing the third quarter ahead 62-49, the United States went up by as many as 26 points, 80-54 with 3:09 to play, before settling in for the eventual victory.
Quotes from Sean May ...
On Brazil jumping out early on the USA
: Like coach said, not playing yesterday kind of hurt us. We got off to a little bit of a slow start and dug ourselves a hole. But we kept our composure. That's the sign of a good team. When times get rough, you can get rusty, you get a little bit of adversity, but you stick together. We came together and pulled it out.
What was the difference in the game?
We matched their physicalness and we didn't let the refs take us out of it. USA players are known for being physical and they were probably one of the most physical teams we'll play. That was the difference in the game. We got all the hustle plays. We were getting killed on the boards in the first half. We turned that around and turned the game around.