The USA set out to end a nearly two-decade draught in the FIBA
U19 World Championship when it headed to Auckland, New Zealand, for
this year’s 16-team international tournament. Mission
With Tyshawn Taylor (Kansas) scoring 18 points and six other players adding at least eight points, the USA held off Greece, 88-80, to capture the gold medal. It was the first title for the USA at the FIBA U19 World Championship since 1991.
The USA pulled away from a 19-19 tie at the end of the first quarter with a 16-1 run to start the second period. Ashton Gibbs (Pittsburgh), who started the run with a basket off an assist from Butler’s Gordon Hayward, scored six points in the five-minute stretch, while Terrico White (Mississippi) added five.
Greece battled back in the third quarter, cutting a 46-30 halftime lead to 50-42 with 5:38 remaining in the period and then closing to within five points, 54-49, with 1:30 left. But the USA rallied in the final minute to stretch the margin back to nine, 60-51, after three quarters and then maintained a double-digit lead through most of the final period.
After the victory, Hayward commented in a USA Basketball release that the team was committed to ending the long USA title draught.
"We came in with that goal and we said "gold medal" during our huddles from day one. That was our focus the whole time and we got it done."
"It's just a great feeling, a great accomplishment to represent
your country and finish first and get the job done. Bonding
with these (players) for however long we did is great and all our
hard work paid off," added Hayward.
Butler’s Shelvin Mack played 17 minutes in the victory and finished with four points and one rebound, while Hayward, who was named to the All-Tournament Team, wound up with four rebounds, two assists and one blocked shot in 25 minutes. Hayward, who entered the game as the top scorer for the USA, took just two shots in the game and didn’t score.
Taylor, who joined Hayward on the All-Tournament Team, led the balanced USA attack, while Gibbs chipped in with 13 points. Klay Thompson of Washington State and Arnett Moultrie (UTEP) each added 10 points.
In addition to Hayward and Taylor, the All-Tournament Team
included Nikos Pappas (Greece), Toni Prostran (Croatia) and
tournament MVP Mario Delas (Croatia).
The USA finished the tournament with a perfect 9-0 record. Six of the team’s nine games were decided by double-digits and only Croatia (81-77) came closer than five points to the champs. The U19 World Championship title was the seventh all-time for the USA.