Saturday’s semifinal matchup with Greece was expected to be the United States U19 team’s most difficult game to date at the FIBA U19 World Championships for multiple reasons. Not only were the Greeks playing in front of a partisan crowd in Heraklion, Crete, Greece, but they also possessed size in the post and perimeter talent capable of giving Sean Miller’s team trouble.
Thanks to players such as Tyler Dorsey and Georgios Papagiannis the Greeks hung around throughout, but in the end the United States proved to be too much. Villanova guard Jalen Brunson once again led the way from the point, scoring 30 points and dishing out four assists in the 82-76 victory.
Next up for the United States is Croatia, which blew out Turkey 91-56 in Saturday’s other semifinal, in the gold medal game Sunday afternoon.
Brunson was joined in double figures by three 2016 prospects, as Harry Giles scored 13 points (and grabbed 11 rebounds) and Jayson Tatum and Terrance Ferguson added 11 apiece. Turnovers were once again an issue for the Americans, as they handed the ball over on the first two possessions of the game and finished with 22, but Greece managed just eight points off turnovers.
The United States shot 52.4 percent inside of the arc and scored 38 points in the paint, areas in which they held a clear advantage over Greece. Dorsey led the hosts with 23 points and Vasilis Charalampopoulos added 21, making five of his eight shots from beyond the arc, but Greece could get no closer than three points in the second half. A Tatum three-point play with just under a minute remaining essentially sealed the game for the United States.
Sunday’s matchup with Croatia is a rematch of a group play meeting the United States won by 22 points. But at that point in the event Croatia was just getting used to not having highly-regarded forward Dragan Bender, who wasn’t allowed to play due to a sneaker dispute (he’s sponsored by adidas, the Croatian basketball federation requires players to wear Jordan/Nike).
Since then they haven’t lost a game, winning four straight with their seven-point Round of 16 win over China being the lone single-digit victory. 7-footer Ivica Zubac (18.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg) leads the team in scoring and has been one of the best players in the tournament.