July 11, 2009
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - The United States, featuring Washington State University men's basketball's Klay Thompson used a fourth quarter rally to defeat Croatia, 81-77, Saturday, to advance to the championship game of the FIBA U19 World Championship. Incoming Cougar Brock Motum's Australian team fell to Greece, 84-69, in the semifinals earlier in the day.
The U.S. (8-0) will face Greece (6-2) for the gold medal Sunday, July 12 at 7:30 p.m. NZDT (Sunday, July 12 at 1:30 a.m. PDT). Previously undefeated Australia (7-1) will face Croatia (6-2) in the bronze medal game Sunday at 5 p.m. NZDT (Saturday, July 11 at 11 p.m. PDT). Both games will be rematches as the USA defeated Greece, 85-69, July 6, while Australia handed the Croatians their first loss with a 79-74 victory, July 8.
Thompson (Ladera Ranch, Calif.), a rising-sophomore, started his fourth-straight game for the Americans, finishing with five points, four rebounds, an assist, a steal and two blocked shots in 20 minutes of action. Thompson's previously hot shooting hand cooled off a bit as he went 2-for-6 from the field and 1-for-4 from beyond the 3-point arc. Butler's Gordon Hayward led the U.S. once again with 15 points and eight rebounds in 30 minutes. Pittsburgh's Ashton Gibbs added 11 points, while Duke's Seth Curry and Mississippi's Terrico White each chipped in 10 points.
Four players scored 15 or more points for Croatia, led by Mario Delas with 17 points. Toni Prostran, Tomislav Zubcic and Dino Butorac each added 15 points. Zubcic led the team with eight rebounds.
Croatia trailed by 13 at the halfway point, but clawed back into the game, taking a two-point, 59-57, lead to start the fourth quarter. The U.S., which scored just 11 points in the third quarter, took over the lead at 63-62, after Howard Thompkins put back his own miss at the 7:37 mark. Croatia came back to tie the game at 70 with just over three and a half minutes to go.
A dunk by Hayward at the 3:14 mark gave the U.S. the lead for good as it went ahead 72-70. The Americans eventually went up 75-72 and Hayward nailed both free throws for a five-point, 77-72, cushion with 57 seconds to go in the game. Croatia hurried down the court on the next possession and Butorac drained his fifth 3-pointer of the game to pull within two with 42 seconds to go.
In jeopardy of a shot clock violation, John Shurna came up with a huge offensive rebound with 19 seconds to go as he got the ball to Hayward who was fouled on his way to the basket. Hayward made both free throws for a 79-75 lead. Just four seconds after the free throws, Croatia's Prostran pulled his team back within two at 79-77 with 12 seconds on the clock. Gibbs made both of his free throws on the next possession and both of Croatia's last second 3-point heaves came up short as the U.S. held on for the win.
Thompson missed his first two shots of the game, but grabbed three rebounds in the first six minutes before draining his first 3-pointer of the night at the 4:51 mark in the first period. The Americans held a six-point, 22-16, lead at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter belonged to the Americans who started the period with a 7-0 run to take a 29-16 lead just a minute into the period. The U.S. led by as many as 16 in the period, as it took a 13-point, 46-33, lead into halftime.
For the first time in the World Championship, incoming Cougar freshman Motum (Brisbane, Australia) didn't score in double-figures as he finished with nine points and four rebounds in 21 minutes of action in Australia's loss to Greece. Motum continues to lead all competitors in the championship with a 60.3 field goal percentage, while ranking 19th with 14.0 points per game. Jorden Page led the Aussies with 15 points, while Matthew Dellavedova chipped 12 points and Mitchell Young added a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Nikolaos Pappas led Greece with 19 points, while Kostas Papanikolaou put up 18 points while grabbing 10 boards. Leonidas Kaselakis also had a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
The first five minutes of the game looked to be a competitive one as the lead changed hands five times in the opening four and a half minutes. The Greeks pulled away at the end of the quarter for a six-point, 24-18 lead. The Greeks' defense took over in the second quarter, holding Australia to just 15 points as they took a 46-33 lead at halftime.
Once again Greece showed its strong defense in the third quarter, holding Australia to just 14 points, extending its lead to 20, 67-47, entering the final period. Despite a five-point advantage in the fourth quarter, the Aussies' comeback fell short as it dropped the game, 84-69.
The U.S. goes for its first gold medal at the U19 World Championship since 1991 against Greece, while Australia looks to bounce back for the bronze against Croatia Sunday.