The 2005 USA Men's World University Games Team completed a dominant showing at the World University Games with a gold medal-winning 85-70 victory over the Ukraine on Sunday afternoon.
Craig Smith (Boston College / Los Angeles, Calif.) led six players in double figures for the USA with 16 points, with all his points coming in the first half. Shelden Williams (Duke / Forest Park, Okla.) added 15, Gerry McNamara (Syracuse / Scranton, Pa.), 13, Randy Foye (Villanova / Newark, N.J.), 12, Chris Hernandez (Stanford / Fresno, Calif.), 11, and Vincent Grier (Minnesota / Charlotte, N.C.) 10. Williams also pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds.
In winning gold for the 13th time in Games history, the USA went 8-0, winning each game by an average margin of 29.9 points per game. The Americans treated every opponent the same, scoring double-digit wins over Iran, Slovakia, Germany, China, Czech Republic, Australia, Russia and Ukraine. The closest contest was a 10-point win over the Germans.
"I thought Randy Foye, Shelden Williams and Vincent Grier, who played most of the minutes for us in the tournament, were exhausted today," said USA and Villanova University (Pa.) head coach Jay Wright. "It showed what kind of team we have. They played tired and everyone else stepped it up. Craig Smith had 16 in the first half, he gets hurt, and so many other players stepped up. It was truly a team effort."
The USA trailed early in the first quarter by a 12-8 count, before closing on a 10-2 run to lead 24-17 after the first period. Smith provided the spark with 12 first quarter points on a variety of moves around the basket as well as short jump shots.
The USA led 46-33 at halftime as the 3-point shot was key for the Americans in the second quarter. The U.S. totaled five in the period, with McNamara connecting on three, while Hernandez and Matt Haryasz (Stanford / Page, Ariz.) had the others.
Smith had 16 first half points before he limped off the court with a strained right calf muscle late in the second quarter. Smith was evaluated by Gloria Beim, M.D., Chief Medical Officer for the 2005 U.S. Summer World University Games, and did not return. It was an injury that Smith had been playing with for the last four weeks.
"I felt good coming out and I felt it pop a little bit (in the second quarter)," said Smith, who made eight of his nine shots. "It (gold medal) means a lot as far as me and the whole United States, the guys and my family. It is a tremendous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
McNamara had 12 of his points in the opening 20 minutes, with four 3-pointers to his credit.
The Ukraine, which was led by Igor Kryvych with 19 points, never made a serious run at the U.S. in the second half.
Leading 58-44, the Americans scored the next eight points to lead 66-44 after a Foye bank shot with 2:13 remaining in the third quarter. With Foye and Grier scoring seven points apiece in the third quarter, the U.S. led 69-49.
"We gave it all we had, this was the last game and we had to finish on top," said Foye, who connected on five of 13 field goal attempts. "Our goal was not to just win a gold medal but be the best team possible. Everyone stuck together and tried to do things that coach was teaching us." The Americans put an exclamation on the victory in the fourth quarter when first Grier, then Williams scored on consecutive plays with dunk shots over Ukranian center Oleksiy Pecmerov, giving the Americans an 80-60 lead Williams had seven fourth quarter points for the USA. The Ukranians could get no closer than the final score.
"It's a great feeling," Williams said. "We came out here and have been together for the last three weeks. We jelled at the right time. Everyone knew their role and it was a great feeling seeing everybody playing like they can play. We reaped the benefits from it."
The USA has now won nine straight World University Games and 55 of the last 56. They have an overall mark of 127-17, and have now medaled in all 18 Games in which they have participated.
"This whole experience has been about a group of twelve stars giving up of themselves to be a team," Wright said. "As coaches we knew we had very talented players, but the thing we are most proud of is the fact that these guys really wanted to be part of a USA Basketball team. They didn't care who was the leading scorer or who played. That is really something special to be part of and is unique these days."
The gold medal was the first for the U.S. since 1999. The USA had won the bronze in 2001 and did not send a team to the 2003 Games in Daegu, South Korea. The double gold's scored by the USA men's and women's basketball teams is the first since 1997.
"We are very proud of that," Wright said. "We take the responsibility of representing United States basketball very seriously, and I think these players did. They took great pride in winning the gold medal for the men, because the women were great here too."
Meanwhile Joe Herber scored six points to help lead the German team to a fifth-place finish in the games. Herber hit two three-pointers to account for his scoring, and added four rebounds, two assists and two steals as Germany downed Turkey 74-55.