After rolling through its first eight games at the Under-19 World Championships in Prague, Czech Republic, Billy Donovan’s United States squad ran into a group from Serbia intent on making things far more difficult for the Americans.
And that’s exactly what happened for three-plus quarters, as Jovan Novak (21 points) and Vasilje Micic (13 points, ten assists) helped keep Serbia well within striking distance.
But the United States would eventually take over, winning by the final score of 82-68 with Louisville sophomore forward Montrezl Harrell (17 points, four rebounds, four blocks) and Washington freshman guard Nigel Williams-Goss (15 points) leading the way.
The win gives the United States its third gold medal in the U-19 World Championships in the last 25 years, a fact that is a bit surprising even with the rise in early departures to the professional ranks during that timespan.
One trait that was a factor for the United States throughout its run in Prague was the team’s balance, with four players finishing in double figures Sunday afternoon. In addition to Harrell and Williams-Goss, Duke sophomore guard Rasheed Sulaimon (12 points) and Oklahoma State sophomore guard Marcus Smart (11 points, three rebounds, three assists) also managed to surpass the 10-point mark.
Also of note was the team’s work on the defensive end, with Serbia finishing the game with 17 turnovers (Micic and Novak committed four turnovers apiece). With VCU head coach Shaka Smart on the staff the United States’ use of full-court pressure (UL Lafayette junior guard Elfrid Payton racked up a game-high five steals) should come as no surprise, and it paid dividends during the fourth quarter against Serbia.
With this victory, USA Basketball now holds the world titles at the U-17, U-19 and senior levels, with the senior men’s national team also being the current Olympic champions.
Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.