After coasting to a comfortable win over Argentina in the Round of 16 despite committing 26 turnovers on Wednesday, the United States U19 team faced a stiffer test Friday morning against Italy.
The Italians hung tough in the first quarter, with the United States taking control in the second quarter of what would eventually become an 86-65 victory. The win advances Sean Miller’s team into the semifinals of the FIBA U19 World Championships, where they’ll take on either hosts Greece or Spain on Saturday.
Jalen Brunson, who will play for Jay Wright at Villanova this upcoming season, led the way offensively with 17 points to go along with five assists and three steals. He was one of four players to score in double figures, with 2016 prospects Harry Giles (ten rebounds) and Josh Jackson scoring 14 points apiece and Jayson Tatum finishing with 12.
As a team the United States shot 54.2 percent from the field and compiled an offensive rebounding percentage of 55.2 percent, but once again turnovers were an issue as they racked up another 22 against Italy. Also of note for the United States is the absence of Arizona signee Allonzo Trier, who did not play after suffering a right ankle injury in the win over Argentina. It remains to be seen whether or not he’ll be able to play in Saturday’s semifinals.
Other teams in action with connections to college basketball are Australia and Canada, with both teams falling earlier Friday. The Australian team, which includes Nebraska commit Jack McVeigh, fell to Turkey 81-70 with McVeigh accounting for a team-high 14 points along with three rebounds.
Canada, whose team includes Oregon forward Dylan Brooks, Harvard forward Chris Egi, and UNLV’s Jalen Poyser and Justin Jackson (a 2016 commit), lost 84-71 to Croatia in another quarterfinal. Jackson led the way offensively with 20 points, and Brooks added 17 in the Canadians’ first loss of the event.
Questions remain regarding UNLV’s final available scholarship
The 2015-16 season is an important one for the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, as an influx of talent combined with some solid returnees is expected to pay dividends on the court. Add in the fact that the program has missed out on the NCAA tournament in each of the last two seasons, with UNLV yet to win a tournament game under the leadership of head coach Dave Rice, and 2015-16 sets up as a campaign that could set the tone for years to come as well.
Even with the addition of players such as grad student Ike Nwamu and freshmen Stephen Zimmerman and Derrick Jones, Rice and his staff still have a scholarship at their disposal for the 2015-16 season. And according to Matt Youmans of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, there are a couple possibilities when it comes to filling that scholarship.
UNLV’s still in the running for former Florida guard Eli Carter, who’s also considering Memphis and Georgetown and will be eligible immediately, and 2016 commit Justin Jackson could reclassify to 2015. Or, UNLV could simply leave the scholarship open.
Rice is planning to utilize more players and frequent three-guard lineups next season. He envisions a team that plays pressure defense and runs, and he needs depth to execute his plan. But he already has 12 scholarship players who are expecting to see significant minutes, and Carter would be the 13th. No college coach in the country uses more than 10 players regularly.
Jackson, a highly touted UNLV commit, left Findlay Prep a year early with hopes of reclassifying as a 2015 recruit, but his status remains in limbo. Jackson made Canada’s Under-19 National Team roster and will compete in the FIBA World Championships in late June.
With the Under-19 World Championships running through July 5 it’s unknown when Jackson, who attended Findlay Prep last season, would make a decision regarding his status. UNLV has depth on the perimeter and in the paint, and as the report notes they have players who are expecting to be factors in the rotation.
They’ll all have to compete for minutes, but the question for Rice is whether he’d have the right balance with 12 players or if there’s a need for one more. And the answer will have an impact on whether or not the Runnin’ Rebels rebound from a disappointing 2014-15 campaign.