Butler Scores 12; USA in Medal Play Thursday

Da'Sean Butler's 12 points helped push Team USA past Serbia 68-66 in the final opening round contest of the World University Games.

Butler, coming off the bench for the second time in the tournament, was one of only two team members in double figures as the USA won a hard-fought battle to record a perfect 4-0 pool play record. Butler was 4-10 from the field, including 2-3 from three point range, and made two of his four free throw attempts. He added five rebounds (including a team high three on offense) and had one steal against just one turnover in 22 minutes of action.

The win helped avenge last week's loss to Serbia, which defeated the USA in a pre-Games warmup tournament.

The game, which saw the U.S. take its highest lead with six points and Serbia own no more than a five-point advantage, was close throughout. The USA trailed after the first quarter, 18-15, but pulled ahead with one second to go before the midway buzzer after Talor Battle drove to the hoop to put the Americans up 37-36.

The third quarter saw both teams score 20 points each, and with 10 minutes remaining in the game, the U.S. was up 57-56.

Serbia, which took advantage of a deafening crowd, put the pressure on defensively and forced the United States to a string of eight missed shots to open the final stanza. After missing its first two shots of the half and coughing up the ball twice, Serbia went ahead 58-57 at 7:42 and two minutes later held a 62-57 advantage. However, the USA never stopped fighting and at 4:40 Corey Fisher drove to the basket for the red, white and blue's first points in the final period. That bucket fueled a spurt that saw Robbie Hummel pull up for a jumper and Battle nail a three as the U.S. went ahead again, 64-62, with less than three minutes to go.

The U.S. never again trailed, but had to weather a last-second three-point attempt by the hosts to get the win.

The USA will face off against Bulgaria (3-1) in the July 9 medal quarterfinals with the winner advancing to the July 10 semifinals. The gold medal will be contested on July 11.

In the other quarterfinals contests, Serbia will play Turkey (4-0), Lithuania (5-0) meets up against Russia (4-1), and Israel (5-0) will tip-off against Germany (2-2). Should the U.S. continue to advance, the American men will face the winner of the Lithuania versus Russia quarterfinal contest.

More from Butler

On tonight's game:

"It feels good. That is the second time we have played them, and they just absolutely killed us the first game. We just wanted to show them that we are a different team."

Did you feel like there was ever a point where the USA tightened up?

"The first quarter we kind of did. Guys weren't really as loose as they should have been. They came out aggressive and got an early lead - a small early lead, but still it was an early lead. Down the stretch we took care of the ball and took care of business, and the ball went our way."

Did you make the adjustments you needed to from the first game against Serbia?

"We were up at halftime last game. We all remember that. Like Coach Ryan said, you have to learn from your mistakes. Last game, third quarter, they came out and killed us on the glass, and that's when we let the game get away from us. We just wanted to make a point of not letting the game get away from us in the third quarter and not letting them get on the glass as much as they did."

What's going through your mind when you miss two free throws with seconds on the clock and a one-point lead?

"Honestly, when Talor (Battle) missed his, and I got the rebound, I thought, 'I have to win the game.' It just didn't work out that way. And then Trevor (Booker) just tapped it out, and I have faith in Corey. Corey knocked down the second free throw at least."

On the last play of the game:

"We are a really good defensive team, granted we gave up a lot of points tonight. But we are a really good defensive team when we set our minds to it. We got the last stop when we needed it, so it just went our way today, and we are happy."

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