USA Men’s Basketball Wins Pool D with Thriller 66-65 Victory Against Serbia

USA Men’s Basketball Wins Pool D with Thriller 66-65 Victory Against Serbia

Photo: Mike Yoder | Lawrence Journal World

Courtesy KU Athletics

GWANGJU, Korea – July 8, 2015– In a battle of undefeated teams, guard Wayne Selden, Jr., made a free throw with 12.9 seconds remaining, and Serbia missed three shots in the waning moments as the USA won 66-65 to improve to 4-0 at the World University Games Wednesday at Dongkang College Gymnasium in Gwangju, Korea. With the victory, USA assured itself finishing first in Pool D and advancing to the medal bracket of the Games.

With the scored tied at 62 with 1:21 to play, Serbia’s Nikola Pesakovic made his second three-pointer of the contest, concluding an 8-0 Serbia run. Selden then drained a deep three from the left wing to knot the score at 65. USA forward Perry Ellis pulled down his ninth rebound of the game on a Serbia missed shot and the Serbians elected to foul Selden with 12.9 remaining. Selden made the second free throw for the one-point lead at 66-65.

Fighting till the end, Serbia had three shots go up in the final seconds with guard Dusan Kutlesic missing first, then Pesakovic shooting an air ball after an offensive rebound. Selden spiked Pesakovic’s miss out of bounds, giving Serbia one more chance with 1.4 seconds remaining. Pesakovic’s desperation shot hit the back of the rim caromed off, giving the USA the win.

“It was a great win,” head coach Bill Self said. “Our guys really wanted it. It was one of those games that it meant a lot to us and we were trying really hard, but there was no gas left in the tank. We were running on empty. This is about as tired as I’ve seen a group, so we’ll rest tonight and hopefully be able to play a lot of players tomorrow and then we’ll have a day off. Hopefully the timing is good for us to be fresh going into medal play.”

Serbia opened the fourth quarter on a 12-2 run to build a 52-45 lead, the largest for either team in the game, with 6:53 to play. Then the USA made its run and tied the game at 57-57 with 3:08 to play on a pair of forward Hunter Mickelson free throws. Mickelson proved to be a huge factor, coming in off the bench for 14 points and seven rebounds. USA guard Frank Mason III, who ended the game with 12 points, made an alley oop from guard Nic Moore, who 30 seconds later drained a three to give USA a 62-57 lead.

“Nic (Moore) made a huge shot and Hunt (Hunter Mickelson) played like a grown man tonight with a lot of rebounds and a lot of tip-ins,” Selden said. “We got stops when it mattered.”

Selden, who entered the day leading the World University Games with a 20.0 scoring average, again led all scorers with 21 points. Ellis had a team-best nine rebounds to go with seven points and Moore had a USA-best six assists for the contest. The game had 14 ties and 12 lead changes with no team leading by more than seven.

USA got off to another solid start, leading 6-1 with just over three minutes into the game. Serbia responded by scoring the next five points and the teams battled back and forth the final five minutes with four ties and five lead changes. Mason’s floater with 1:57 left in the quarter gave USA a 14-13 lead heading into the second period.

USA built a 24-18 lead to start the second with two monster dunks by Selden and four-straight free throws from forward Carlton Bragg, Jr., Ellis and Mason. Serbia again bounced back, scoring six-straight to tie the game at 24-24. Mickelson made a lay-in with 28 seconds remaining to give USA a 26-24 lead at intermission.

Serbia opened the third quarter with a three by 14 to take a 27-26 lead but four minutes later Mason hit a three-pointer to give USA a 31-29 edge. It was a seesaw battle the remainder of the quarter that saw four ties and three lead changes.

The USA team will conclude Pool D play when it faces Switzerland on Thursday, July 9, at 10 a.m. local, which is 8 p.m. in Kansas. The game will be televised on ESPNU and seen on the Watch ESPN app.