Men’s Basketball tops Lithuania and will face Russia in Semifinals
Photo: Mike Yoder | LJW
Courtesy KU Athletics
GWANGJU, Korea – July 11, 2015– For the first time in three World University Games, the USA will play for a medal as it defeated Lithuania, 70-48, in the quarterfinals Saturday at Dongkang College Gymnasium in Gwangju, Korea.
The USA, made up mainly of University of Kansas student-athletes and staff, went on a 25-2 run from the final minute of the third quarter to just over five minutes of the fourth period to outdistance Lithuania and advance to the semifinals against the winner of the Russia-Estonia quarterfinal, Sunday, July 12, at 6:30 p.m., 4:30 a.m. in Kansas, at Dongkang College Gymnasium. The last time USA played for a medal was when it won bronze at the 2009 World University Games, which are held every other year. USA finished fifth in 2011 Universiade and ninth in 2013.
“We played a bad third quarter, but we defended,” USA head coach Bill Self said. “Even though we only scored eight points in the third quarter, they only got 12. Then we go on a 25-2 run and it was because of defensive rebounding. We absolutely locked them up the last 13 minutes of the game. That was really a good display against a team that had been leading the tournament in scoring.”
With the score 43-42 with 1:04 left in the third quarter, USA guard Julian DeBose’s free throws started what would be an incredible run by the Americans. Guard Nic Moore made four of the first six points with two steals, resulting in a layup and a jumper. Guard Frank Mason III sandwiched in a traditional three-point play, forcing a Lithuania timeout with 8:38 to play and the USA up 52-42. Not two minutes later, Wayne Selden, Jr., drained a three-pointer off a forward Landen Lucas assist, forcing a second Lithuania timeout. Rolling, forward Perry Ellis dunked from another Lucas assist and Lucas then made a free throw to give USA a 58-42 lead at the 5:07 mark and Lithuania had yet to score in the period. Following a Lithuania basket by Paulis Dambrauskas at 4:44, the USA went on a 10-0 run en route to the victory.
Mason led USA with 18 points and four assists to go along with four steals. Moore had six steals to add to his nine points, while Lucas pulled down a team-high nine rebounds in scoring seven points. Ellis scored 11 points with six boards. Dambrauskas led Lithuania with 18 points.
“Everything starts with me – it’s starts with the point guard,” Mason said. “So I try to come out and do everything I can to get my team going. The guys did a great job of following and coming along.”
Lithuania took advantage of two USA turnovers and scored the first five points of the third quarter to cut the lead to 37-35 in favor of the Americans. With the USA up 39-37, no team scored for nearly three minutes until Mason stole the ball and raced in for a layup. On the next possession, Mason found Lucas for a dunk to give USA a 43-37 lead with 3:53 left in the period. Lithuania scored the next five points to cut the USA lead to 43-42 before DeBose drained the two free throws, his only points of the contest, to put the USA up 45-42 at the end of the period.
With the game tied at two the USA went on a 14-4 run highlighted by a Mason patented drive and lay in followed by a three-pointer and finished with a three-pointer by Selden off a Mason feed. Lithuania countered and would cut the lead to 23-18 after one period.
USA opened the second quarter with a 9-2 run with forward Hunter Mickelson capping it on a lay-in from Mason on a USA fast break which gave the Americans their largest lead of the game at 32-20 with 6:12 before intermission. Mickelson would end the contest with six points on 3-of-4 shooting and four rebounds. Lithuania was not fazed and cut the lead to seven twice including a steal and lay in by Rokas Giedraitis with 35 seconds remaining, which ended up being the halftime score at 37-30 in favor of USA.
“That’s what we came here for,” Lucas said about playing for a medal. “We still have two more games to focus on. Any medal besides gold and we’ll feel like we didn’t really accomplish what we wanted to. So we’re going for that gold.”
The USA team will play Russia in the medal round semifinals on Sunday, July 12, at 6:30 p.m. local, which is 4:30 a.m., July 12, in Kansas at Dongkang College Gymnasium. The game will be televised on ESPNU and seen on the Watch ESPN app.