Team USA had a day between it's last game and this morning's quarterfinal against Russia, but instead of using the time to prepare, Paul Hewitt gave his men the day off from practice. It was clear, however, that the Russians were ready to play, handing the Americans a 74-79 loss and knocking them out of medal contention.
Once again Team USA struggled shooting from distance, missing all nine attempts from 3-point. Russia, on the other hand, made 12 of 29 attempts from beyond the arc to help them build and maintain a lead.
"We had 18 offensive rebounds, but again that 3-point shot is a great equalizer," said head coach Paul Hewitt. "We went 0-for-9, they went 12-for-29. That’s a pretty tough margin to overcome. I think given the difference there, I thought our guys battled and gave us a chance even though we were outshot from the 3-point line 12 to zip."
UConn's Jeremy Lamb lead the USA offense with 21 points, while Joe Jackson of Memphis and Meyers Leonard of Illinois also scored in double digits. Despite their offensive efforts, however, the American teenagers were unable to match-up with the Russian shooters.
"We tried to play through Jeremy. I thought in the third quarter he had it going a little bit and got us the lead. I thought in the fourth quarter we were getting some good shots," Hewitt said.
Dmitry Kulagin was the hot hand for the Russians early in the game, hitting four three-pointers and scoring 14 points in the first quarter. Russia would continue to stay hot once they got the lead, going into half-time with a 40-30 advantage. They connected on 8 three-pointers in the first half alone. The second half belonged, however, to small forward, Vlad Trushkin, an under-17 who heated up late to score 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting and 3-of-6 from deep.
After America pulled back within a point in the last quarter with 3:40 remaining, Trushkin nailed consecutive three-pointers to give his team room to breath. With 32.5 seconds remaining, Trushkin nailed another three to extend the lead to 74-68 and force the Americans to foul. Russia sank 5-of-8 free-throws during the last 24 seconds of the game to ice the victory.
Weak shooting wasn't Team USA's only issue, they also posted a negative turnover-to-assist ratio.
"The last couple of games I thought we had some untimely turnovers in transition, and one of the strengths of our team up to this point, up to the last two games, is scoring in transition and being efficient," according to Hewitt. "We had some turnovers against Croatia and against Russia today, and when a team is shooting the three the way they were shooting it and we’re shooting like we were shooting it, those turnovers get magnified."
Villanova's James Bell was again a non-factor on the offensive side of the ball. Despite starting, he played only 10 minutes and went 0-for-2 from the field with 3 rebounds, and a turnover.
USA now moves to the consolation bracket where they will play Poland (5-2), who lost to Lithuania earlier today. The winner of that game will play for 5th-place on Sunday and the loser will play for 7th.