Entering Sunday’s FIBA Americas U16 gold medal match with Canada the United States had never lost a game in the brief history of the event, going 19-0 with the majority of those wins being by comfortable margins. But they were definitely challenged by a Canadian squad led by the tournament’s top rebounder in 2018 forward Simi Shittu, as Canada led 19-3 at the end of the first quarter with the Americans shooting 1-for-17 from the field.
The United States trailed by as much as 20 (23-3) before turning things around, with 2017 prospects Wendell Carter Jr., Gary Trent Jr. and Jarred Vanderbilt leading the way. They eventually took their first lead of the game in the third quarter, grabbing control of the game in the final six minutes and winning by the final score of 77-60.
However the final margin, coming as a result of the United States closing the game on a 28-5 run, is not a true indicator of how tough the game was.
Shittu led Canada with 18 points and 14 rebounds, with Rowan Barrett Jr. adding 13, and early on they managed to limit the easy looks the United States was able to find against lesser competition. But Vanderbilt (19 points, ten rebounds) served as the catalyst in the second quarter, with Trent Jr. (19 points, six rebounds) and Carter stepping forward in the second stanza.
Both teams struggled with turnovers, combining for 49, but the United States was able to get better looks in the second half and ultimately finished with 46 points in the paint to Canada’s 30.
USA Basketball’s U16 team started 3-0 in pool play at FIBA Americas this week in Argentina. The Americans average was of victory was above 51 points per contest as the depth, athleticism and skill of the group was too overwhelming for Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Brazil.
Since the USA group is so deep, other teams often stay somewhat close for a quarter before a second-quarter surge pushes the Americans to a huge halftime lead.
The team set a record for 3-pointers made in a single game at the event by going 19-for-44 (43 percent) in a win over the Dominican Republic, led by Class of 2017 guard Gary Trent Jr.’s seven 3-pointers and 25 points.
Class of 2017 big man Wendell Carter went for 21 points and 11 rebounds while Class of 2018 forward Jalen Hill had 14 points and 12 rebounds in the win over Brazil to push the team into the semifinals. In the opening game, Class of 2017 guard Markus Howard went for 19 points on 62 percent shooting.
USA has already qualified for the U17 FIBA World Championships by placing in the top four for this years FIBA Americas. The Americans now will play host Argentina (2-1) at 7:30 p.m. EDT on June 13 for a right to play in the title game on June 14.
The USA Basketball U18 team national team ran through the FIBA Americas U18 Championship field this past week, capping off the tournament with a 113-79 win over Canada in the gold medal game at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
USA Basketball all five games by at least 34 points.
MORE: USA Basketball wins FIBA gold | U.S. clinches spot in U19 World Championships in 2015
Stanley Johnson, the Arizona signee, wound up winning MVP honors while winning his third gold medal as part of Team USA. He and Duke-bound Justise Winslow dominated opposing perimeters, using their size and speed to come away with steal after steal in USA’s full-court press, which led to plenty of breakaway dunks.
With play-making guards like Tyus Jones, Winslow’s future teammate, and Jalen Brunson, a five-star point guard in the Class of 2015, big men like Stephen Zimmerman and Texas-commit Myles Turner also threw down some international posterizations. Allonzo Trier, Chase Jeter, Isaiah Briscoe and Jaylen Brown are also included in the two-minute mixtape.
This was the third consecutive FIBA Americas U18 Championship won by USA Basketball.