NORMAN, Okla. - Oklahoma head men's basketball Jeff Capel directed the USA to a gold medal with a come-from-behind 81-78 win over Brazil in the FIBA America's U18 Championship Wednesday night in San Antonio, Texas.
The U.S., which finished the tournament with a 5-0 record at Bill Greehey Arena on the campus of St. Mary's University, trailed Brazil 35-34 at halftime and 63-58 after three quarters. The deficit grew to nine, 67-58, with 8:53 to go before Capel's team used an 18-5 run to take a 76-72 lead with 3:54 remaining. Brazil battled back to tie the game at 78 with less than a minute to go, but a USA 3-pointer with 26 seconds remaining marked the game's final points.
Capel's team shot 45 percent from the field and 28 percent from 3-point range while Brazil posted respective 42 percent and 38 percent (8-for-21) marks. The U.S. did damage at the free throw line. It made 16 of its 20 attempts (80 percent) while Brazil, which finished the event with a 4-1 record, went 8-for-13 (62 percent).
"What an exciting game," said an enthusiastic Capel. "Brazil was magnificent. We scrimmaged them last week and it was a very close game. We knew this would be a very tough battle.
"We got off to such a great start and perhaps then our guys thought it would be easy. Our lack of going through any adversity in this tournament hurt us. But our guys showed tremendous resolve. I'm so proud of them."
Wednesday's gold medal game was by far the most challenging of the tournament for a U.S. team that entered the day with an average victory margin of 50 points. In Group B play, Capel's squad beat the U.S. Virgin Islands 131-63 on Saturday, Mexico 114-38 on Sunday and Argentina 88-67 on Monday. It handled Canada in Tuesday's semifinals round by a 122-89 score.
"This experience, especially how we had to fight together to win, will help these guys so much going forward," added Capel. "I enjoyed coaching them and wish them luck throughout their careers."
Capel returns to Norman Thursday for the start of his inaugural OU fantasy camp.