Ice Cold

Da'Sean Butler was one of five team USA players that failed to convert from the field in an excruciating 69-68 loss to Russia in the semi-finals of the World University Games

The USA team (5-1) saw its gold medal hopes slip away in the waning minutes after Russia (6-1) outscored the U.S. 20-9 in the final stanza for the 69-68 win on Friday night in Belgrade, Serbia. The U.S. still has a chance at a medal, however, and will face Israel (6-1) in Saturday's bronze medal game (12:00 p.m. EDT). Host Serbia (5-1) advanced to the gold medal game against Russia after thumping Israel 82-56.

Butler was 0-5 from the field, but did manage to make three of his four free throws. The U.S. was just 20-31 in the game from the line. Butler added four rebounds to go along with an assist, a blocked shot and a steal against three turnovers.

"That game was hard-fought," said USA and University of Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan. "Defensively, look at what we were making them shoot. Of course, they were playing hard too, and look what they did to us. Finding easy baskets in that game was very, very difficult. You have a bad shooting night one game, and then you are on the sideline for the championship game. Now we have to play for the bronze, which is a great opportunity for these guys to bounce back and leave on a winning note."

Owning a 10-point, 59-49, lead heading into the fourth quarter, the USA was called for four offensive fouls in the period and was held scoreless for a five-minute stretch. Trevor Booker (Clemson / Whitmire, S.C.) broke the scoring drought with a put-back that gave the USA a 63-58 cushion with 3:51 to play. At the 2:25 mark Talor Battle (Penn State / Albany, N.Y.) drove through traffic for a bucket that gave the U.S. a six-point, 66-60, advantage. Russia, however, converted on an offensive board, then Booker was called for a moving screen, negating Fisher's long-range three-pointer on the USA's next possession. Russia's Nikita Shabalkin's dunk with 1:22 remaining closed the gap to 66-64.

After a USA miss, Shabalkin got a put-back to tie the game with 1:00 remaining. Fisher put up a 3-pointer that rimmed out, and Booker was there for the rebound and tried to go back up, but was sent to the line. He swished in both tries, giving the USA its final lead of the game, 68-66, with 44.6 seconds on the clock.

The American defenders worked Russia on the other end, but with time running down on the shot clock, Shalbakin made a three with 23.3 seconds to go. That put Russia ahead for the first time since the opening minutes of the game.

Ryan called a time out and upon returning from the break, Hummel inbounded the ball at mid-court to Battle. Battle worked the ball around, missed his shot but the ball got back to the USA's Hummel, who was immediately double-teamed. His 3-point attempt was off the mark, but Fisher came up with the rebound and tried to put it back in as time expired.

"It was very contested," commented Hummel on his final three-point attempt. "I wasn't sure how much time was left. I knew it wasn't much so I was just trying to throw something at the rim really. They played good defense."

The U.S. faltered from the line and only connected on 64.5 percent (20-31 FGs) of its tries, missing 11 in all.

"We leave a lot of points at the line," said Thompson. "And when you leave points at the line you give teams a way to climb back in the game. You are not scoring and time is being stopped, so that's tough."

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