The USA Basketball Men’s World Cup Qualifying Team (9-2) needed just a few minutes to find its groove before cruising to a record-setting, 111-80 win over Panama (4-7) on Friday night at The Fieldhouse at Greensboro Coliseum Complex in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Closing the game with three straight 3-pointers, Cameron Reynolds (Stockton Kings) set five U.S. Men’s World Cup Qualifying individual records, including 26 points, field goals made and attempted (10-17 FGs) and 3-pointers made and attempted (6-11 3pt FGs). Travis Trice (Austin Spurs) also entered his name into the U.S. MWCQ record books with 10 assists and four steals. And as a team, the USA set MWCQ records for field goals attempted (81), 3-pointers made and attempted (18-48 3pt FGs) and for free throw percentage (.867, 13-15 FTs).
“We just want to play good basketball, to the standard of USA Basketball, what they’ve set,” said USA head coach Jeff Van Gundy. “So, qualified or not, we just want to play well, and I thought Panama played outstanding in the first half, really shot it well. Our defense might have been a little sub-par, and then our depth I thought really showed through in the second half. And, Cam (Cameron Reynolds) had a big, big night, and he’s an outstanding player who has had a dramatic improvement from November until now.”
The victory was the USA’s second-to-last contest in FIBA World Cup Qualifying play, and its first together as a team. The USA, which already has qualified for the 2019 FIBA World Cup, will close out against Argentina (9-2) at 7 p.m. EST on Monday, Feb. 25 at The Fieldhouse at Greensboro Coliseum Complex. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster, and the game will be on ESPN+.
“We had to bring the intensity tonight, but he (coach) has been preaching that the whole week, and I thought that in the second half, we kind of turned it up a little bit,” Reynolds said. “Like he said, in the first half, it was kind of sub-par, letting them get wide open shots, but I think that we changed the tone of the game, and we followed through with the game plan.
“Really, I was just open,” Reynolds said of his records. “I mean, my teammates, we did a good job of finding each other, ball movement. We had 27 assists as a team, that’s really unheard of as a team, you know, just coming together. So, they did a really good job of finding me, and it’s just my job to knock them down, take the right shots, not to take any bad ones. So, I feel like the shots that I was getting were the right ones, and I took them.”
The game was a 3-point party in the first quarter, with the USA sinking five as a team, including three from Reynolds, while Panama made six 3s. After trailing 6-2 to start, a 10-run helped the USA lead 22-21 after the first period.
The USA again hit five 3-pointers in the second quarter, while Panama cooled off from deep. The USA pushed its lead to eight points twice, before Panama fought back to pull within two points, 48-46, with 1:06 left before halftime. The USA, however, which posted 31 points from eight different scorers in the second period, scored the last five points to go ahead 53-46 at halftime.
The first half highlight seemingly was a dunk from the USA’s 6-foot-2 Josh Adams (Raptors 905), who got the crowd onto their feet with his slam midway through the period.
The USA shot 41.9 percent from the field in the first half, and its 16 second chance points and 31 points off of the bench helped it counter Panama’s 60.7 percent shooting.
The USA opened the third with another crowd-pleasing dunk – this time Kyle Casey (Memphis Hustle) slammed home an assist from Travis Trice (Austin Spurs). That ignited the USA, which pushed its lead to as many as 18 points, 78-61, with 41.6 on the clock.
With an 80-64 lead to start the fourth period, the USA increased its lead all the way through the final buzzer, outscoring Panama 31-16 to earn the 111-80 win.
The USA finished with 63 points off of the bench, outrebounded Panama 46-27 and shot 49.4 percent from the field (40-81). Panama ended up shooting 48.3 percent from the field (28-58 FGs).
“We’ve been preparing well, very hard in Miami in training camp,” said Xavier Munford (Wisconsin Herd). “Coach Van Gundy is very detailed and particular in what he wants, and we just came out and try to execute what he wanted. And it always feels good to represent the USA, even if we are qualified or not.”
Former University of Georgia head coach Mark Fox and former Georgetown University head coach John Thompson III are serving as USA assistant coaches.
The USA, Argentina, Canada (9-2) and Venezuela (9-2) already have qualified for the 2019 FIBA World Cup of Basketball out of the Americas region. The remaining three spots into the FIBA World Cup out of the Americas will go to the third-place teams in second-round groups E and F and the best-rated, fourth-place team from either group.
Also today in FIBA Americas Group E qualifying action, Puerto Rico (7-4) edged out Argentina in overtime, 87-86; while Mexico (3-7) is taking on Uruguay (6-4) in the final game of the night.