USA Basketball's Under-19 team had a powerful wake-up call in a pre-championship exhibition game against Lithuania, losing to the eastern European nation, 101 to 72. It was the first test for the American squad against international competition, and their struggles were palpable.
Villanova's James Bell did not start, but played 20 minutes in the contest. He went 3-7 from the floor, but did not connect on any of his three attempts from beyond the arc. Scoring 8 points left him fourth on the team in scoring, he also grabbed three rebounds, had one assist, two blocks and did not turn the ball over during the contest.
"I thought the Lithuanian team played very well, especially in the first half. They moved the ball extremely well and did a great job of screening our guys," commented USA head coach Paul Hewitt. "I expected us to play better. I don’t think we played very well. But again credit should go to Lithuania, they played well."
"I thought the thing we learned from this game is just how physical the game is. We have to raise our level of physicality, especially on the defense end, firing through screens, and on the offensive end, setting better screens."
Team USA was lead by University of Michigan's Tim Hardaway, Jr., who scored 18 points, mostly in the second half. Joe Jackson of the University of Memphis recorded 13 points and lead the team with 8 rebounds, while Creighton's Doug McDermott finished the game with 12 points.
USA was within 15 points twice in the fourth quarter, but was unable to reach any closer. The Americans shot just 35.5% from the field, 25% from 3-point and was an abysmal 12-of-20 from the foul line. Lithuania, meanwhile, shot 49.3% overall, 36% from three and nailed 26 of their 42 free throw attempts.
"This is a great experience for me, just to see the different basketball around the world," said Jackson, "I’m very excited, I want to play another game right now to tell the truth. We’re going to get better as the days go on, this just shows us how hard we have to play and what our competition is like."
Team USA will take on the Lithuanians once more in exhibition play on June 28, before opening the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship on June 30 against Egypt.
The preliminary round will be pool play with the top three teams from each of the four pools advancing to a second round of pool play. Eight teams will emerge from that round to the quarterfinals, where they will be seeded based on second-round standings and play single-elimination from there out.
USA will also face China and Serbia in preliminary group play, but would not face Lithuania for a third time until the single-elimination phase begins.
U19 World Championship
Preliminary Round Pools
USA Preliminary Round Schedule
|June 30, 4:00pm*||USA vs. Egypt||Liepaja, Latvia|
|July 1, 4:00pm*||Serbia vs. USA||Liepaja, Latvia|
|July 2, 6:15pm*||USA vs. China||Liepaja, Latvia|
*all times local