After picking up wins over Venezuela and Puerto Rico, the United States Pan-American Games team faced its stiffest test Thursday night as they took on Brazil. The Brazilians are a veteran group that plays well together, and that was certainly the case as they beat the Americans 93-83 in Toronto.
Vitor Benite proved near impossible for the United States to stop, as the 6-foot-2 guard tallied 34 points on 10-for-17 shooting, which included 8-for-11 from beyond the arc. Benite also grabbed seven rebounds, and as a team Brazil shot 53 percent from the field and 15-for-26 from three. That was too much to overcome for the United States, which made just six of its seventeen three-point attempts.
Keith Langford led the way offensively for the U.S. with 17 points, making all eight of his shots from the foul line, with Bobby Brown (16 points), Taurean Prince (16) and Anthony Randolph (15) also reaching double figures. But the caliber of looks the team was able to find was an issue, as they finished with a total of five assists to go along with ten turnovers.
By comparison, Brazil finished the night with 16 assists, with three players having three apiece, to 12 turnovers.
While the United States will advance to the semifinals of the event, the loss means that their road to a possible gold medal gets tougher. Next up for Few’s team is host Canada, which won all three of its games in group play. Three players who will play college basketball next season are on Jay Triano’s team: Oregon’s Dillon Brooks, Kentucky’s Jamal Murray and Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer.
Brazil will take on the Dominican Republic in the Friday’s other semifinal.
Sunday afternoon USA Basketball revealed the 12 players who will represent the country at this month’s Pan-American Games in Toronto, with the team being a mix of current collegians and professional players. Among those who survived the cut from 16 to 12 were Maryland point guard Melo Trimble and Wichita State shooting guard Ron Baker, who will be two of the top players in the country at their respective positions this coming college season.
Joining Trimble and Baker as collegians on the roster are Virginia guard Malcolm Brogdon, University of Louisiana forward Shawn Long, Baylor forward Taurean Prince, Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski and Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine. That group will be joined by five players who are currently playing at the professional level overseas or in the NBA in guard Bobby Brown, center Ryan Hollins, guard Keith Langford, forward Anthony Randolph and guard Damien Wilkins.
Serving as head coach is Gonzaga’s Mark Few, with Colorado head coach Tad Boyle and former NBA head coach Mike Brown being his assistants.
“It’s a group of hard-working guys who have done a great job in camp of really playing together and being unselfish,” Few said in the release. “They came into camp with a great attitude and mindset to really work, and now we’ve got to start formulating and playing to our strengths. This is a group that’s got some versatility, and I think we should be able to play a couple different ways.”
Beginning Monday the team will train at the Chicago Bulls’ practice facility until the 16th, heading north of the border following that for games that begin Tuesday, July 21. In group play (Group B) the United States will play games against Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Brazil, with the top two teams in each group advancing into the semifinals.
The four teams in Group A are hosts Canada (which will suit up a team that includes Anthony Bennett and Kentucky freshman Jamal Murray), Argentina, Dominican Republic and Mexico.
Late in the third quarter of the Kansas/USA team’s World University Games quarterfinal matchup with Lithuania, Bill Self’s team led by just one point (43-42) and appeared to be locked in a struggle similar to that of their one-point win over Serbia in group play. However that would not be the case, as the Americans clamped down defensively and Lithuania could not hit a shot.
A 15-0 run established the distance needed to put the game away, with Self’s team going on to win by a final score of 70-48. After scoring eight points in the third quarter the Americans outscore Lithuania 25-6 in the fourth, with Frank Mason III leading a balanced offensive effort with 18 points to go along with seven rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Joining Mason in double figures were Wayne Selden Jr. (13 points, five rebounds) and Perry Ellis (11 points, six rebounds), with SMU’s Nic Moore adding nine points and six assists. Kansas received solid efforts from big men Landen Lucas and Hunter Mickelson as well, with the latter making the start at the center position. Lucas contributed seven points and nine rebounds, with Mickelson adding six points and four rebounds and freshman Carlton Bragg grabbing five rebounds during his time on the floor.
Paulius Dambrauskas, who scored 12 points and was a difficult matchup for the Americans in the first half, led Lithuania with 18 points but did not score again until just past the halfway point of the fourth quarter. Also of note on the Lithuanian team was Evansville rising senior forward Egidijus Mockevicius, who had a quiet night after rolling his right ankle chasing down a rebound just over a minute into the game.
Mockevicius, who has led the Missouri Valley Conference in rebounding each of the last two years and was a first team all-conference selection in 2014-15, finished the game with two points and five rebounds. As a team Lithuania shot just 27 percent from the field, with their percentage plummeting after they made seven of their 13 shots from the field in the first quarter.
Next up for the United States, which has reached the semifinals of the World University Games for the first time since 2009, will be either Russia or Estonia. That 2009 team, coached by Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan, won the bronze medal.