Gibbs, Team USA In Gold Medal Game

Team USA got all it could handle from Croatia, but held on for an 81-77 victory in a semifinal matchup at the FIBA under-19 world championship tournament Saturday night at the North Shore Events Center in Auckland, New Zealand.

Team USA, guided by Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon, has set up a gold-medal game meeting with Greece, which knocked off previously undefeated Australia 84-69. Greece is the European champion.

The U.S. got off to a slow start and trailed early, 6-0, as Mario Delas was tough to handle. But once Team USA got rolling and Delas took a break, the momentum changed. The U.S. got seven points from Seth Curry to take a 24-17 lead in the second quarter, but the Croatians hung in there.

That advantage improved to 46-33 at halftime primarily because Team USA held a 12-7 lead on the boards and forced five turnovers in the second quarter. But Delas brought Croatia back in the third quarter with three quick inside baskets. Tomislav Zubcic then nailed two 3-pointers, and Toni Prostran found Leon Radosevic twice under the hoop. When Prostran scored a basket of his own Croatia led 55-53 with 1:39 remaining in the quarter.

The final quarter was a classic, with both teams trading baskets throughout. But it was Team USA that maintained the lead, and with Shelvin Mack hitting a tough pull-up jumper and Gordon Haywood hitting all four free throws and controlling a crucial offensive rebound, the USA secured a 4-point win.

Haywood was again outstanding for the U.S. with 15 points and eight rebounds, while Curry (10 points) was crucial in the first half. Pitt sophomore guard Ashton Gibbs (11 points) and Terrico White (10) also scored in double figures.

Prostran led Croatia with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists, and along with Delas (17 points), Zubcic (15 points, 8 rebounds) and Dino Butorac (15 points with five 3-pointers) almost led the Croatians into the final.

Croatia faces a rematch with Australia in the bronze medal.

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