Watson stars in U.S. victory

Tennessee basketball standout C.J. Watson scored 10 first-half points -- 12 total points -- to help the USA route Nigeria 88-69 Saturday in the FIBA Junior World Championships at Thessaloniki, Greece.

''I just try to come in off the bench and do what I can for my team to win the game and tonight it was scoring, knocking down open shots,'' Watson said. ''It was a very physical game and we knew that coming in. We just had to play physical and keep the energy up on our defensive end. Every night any player can step up, we just have to be ready to take that role and tonight I made open shots and my teammates got me the ball in good position.''

DeAngelo Alexander (Oklahoma/Midwest City, Okla.) led the U.S. scoring with 13 points. Maurice Ager (Michigan State/Detroit, Mich.) added 10 points, plus a game-high 10 rebounds.

''It was a scrappy game,'' said U.S. head coach Ernie Kent. ''We had different players step up again tonight and that's been a real positive for this team because we have had guys who have been off their games on certain nights and other guys have filled right in. That's a good indication of the team we put together and the depth that we have on this team. C.J. (Watson), played real well tonight, Deron Williams had another good game and Ryan Hollins had a big time game tonight.''

Paul Davis (Michigan State/Rochester, Mich.) and Daniel Brown (Illinois/Maywood, Ill.) each scored four points as the USA sprinted out to a 10-1 lead to open the contest, and while the USA defense limited Nigeria to 3-14 (21.4 percent) shooting for the quarter, the U.S. was 8-18 (44.4 percent) from the field and led 21-13 after one.

Nigeria closed to within two twice, the last time coming with 5:55 to go in the second stanza when it cut the lead to 25-23. A 7-0 U.S. run, that was capped by an Alexander 3-pointer, provided the U.S. with some breathing room as the lead was pushed to 32-23. After Watson found the mark from beyond the 3-point arc with 11 seconds to go before half, and the U.S. retired to the locker room leading 44-32.

While Nigeria's shooting from the field warmed some in the second quarter to a still frigid 41.1 percent (7-17 FGs), free throw shooting in the first 20 minutes hurt as the African champions made just 9-of-20 tries (45.0 percent), while the USA converted on 14 of 15 charity attempts (93.3 percent).

Nigeria opened the third quarter by scoring the first five points to reduce the U.S. advantage to seven, 44-37. But Daniel Brown dropped a much needed three to reverse the momentum and with 2:02 left in the quarter the U.S. was in command 67-48. Nigeria hung around and nibbled at the lead, and at the end of three the U.S. was up 13, 71-58.

Stepping up its defensive intensity, the USA opened the final period with a 10-0 run to end all speculation on the outcome of the game. In fact, Nigeria did not score its first points of the quarter until 4:07 was left and by that time the USA led 81-61.

The United States (3-0) finished first in Group C during first-round play and now advances on to the medal round quarterfinals, which begin today.


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