Gwangju, South Korea When the final buzzer sounded on Sunday, German players and coaches were excited about their 59-49 semifinal win against Brazil. But they knew they still had work to do.
Germany will face the United States men’s basketball team in the World University Games gold-medal game, after the Jayhawks beat Russia, 78-68, at 9 p.m. Monday (7 a.m. CDT on ESPNU) at Yeomju Gymnasium.
The German players didn’t stay at the arena for USA’s victory, planning to watch back in their rooms at the athletes village and rest up for the tournament final.
“We’ll prepare as best as we can,” Germany coach Henrik Rödl said. “We’ll try to use the strengths we had all tournament: a good defensive team, a good rebounding team and we’ll try to take care of the ball a little bit better, then we’ll have a chance to win.”
Germany leads the World University Games with an average of 50.5 rebounds per game and ranks second in points allowed (53.5).
“I think the zone is bothering opponents so far,” Rödl said. “Teams have made some shots, but I think it slows the other team down, makes them think a little bit. But our guys, they play hard together. And I think we have size. Size when you come into the lane, even when you think you have a good opportunity, we still have big guys in front of you that you have to score over, so that helps a lot.”
Germany has two current Ivy League players, with senior forward Hans Brase at Princeton and senior guard Maodo Lo at Columbia. Brase, who finished with 10 points and four rebounds on Sunday, led Princeton with an average of 7.5 rebounds per game last year and averaged 11.5 points. Lo was Columbia’s leading scorer last season at 18.4 points per game.
Rödl played at the University of North Carolina under Dean Smith, winning a national title in 1993, which included a Final Four win over Kansas. He was the third German to win a national title in NCAA history.
“I remember him,” Kansas coach Bill Self said of Rödl. “He was a good player. About 6-(foot)-8? That’ll be good. At least I have somebody I can talk to before the game.”
A few of the USA coaches attended Germany’s game against Brazil, which was three hours earlier than Jayhawks’ game against Russia.
“Our staff has only seen them once, but we’ll watch game tape tonight and in the morning,” Self said. “We’ll have a decent book on them. We probably had a better book on Lithuania and Russia because they played multiple games at the same site where it’s easier to scout.”
Germany only led by two points against Brazil entering the fourth quarter, but opened the period with a 9-3 run. Germany held Brazil to 28 percent shooting (18-of-64) and forced 19 turnovers. Bogdan Radosavljevic led the undefeated German team with a game-high 11 points and 13 rebounds.
“It was a game with a lot of mistakes,” Rödl said. “In the first half, both teams already had 25 turnovers. It was not pretty. Both teams obviously nervous and tired, and really tried to get over the hump. In the second half, we had a run that put us over and gave us that little advantage at the end. I thought that the guys had a little bit more energy and made some good plays down the stretch to win the game.”
Does Germany have any extra motivation playing against the Jayhawks?
“Nope, going for gold,” Rödl said. “I don’t think it makes any difference to the guys. (The Jayhawks) look like the best team in the tournament so far. But we’re playing in the finals, so we’ll see who the best team is. It’s the one that wins the last game.”
The Jayhawks moved one step closer to earning a gold medal with their semifinal win against Russia.
“I’ve never been a part of anything like this,” Self said. “But I would assume any time that, regardless of what event, you represent your country and you get a chance to get a gold medal, it would be a huge deal. What it could be … hopefully, it’ll be a start to a very special year.”
How do wins in the World University Games compare to the season?
“I don’t know if our fans would think this is near as big as an NCAA tournament game,” Self said. “But for the kids who have worked hard this summer and for the experience … it’s fun. But it won’t be fun from a fan standpoint like it is for us. But to these kids over here, it means an awful lot.”
Despite earning a spot in the gold-medal game, the Jayhawks aren’t satisfied until they complete their goal of winning the tournament.
“We’re all excited but we don’t just want to play for it,” KU junior point guard Frank Mason III said. “We want to win it. We’ll go back and look at tape on Germany and try to get better and do some things and hopefully get the win.”
At the World University Games, gold medalists don’t get their national anthem played afterward. Instead it’s the FISU anthem “Gaudeamus Igitur,” to promote unity between athletes from different countries. The medals are presented by college students aspiring to be flight attendants.
With a 24-second shot clock, Self has let the Jayhawks play without many set-plays on offense, which has helped USA’s guards create opportunities off of the dribble.
“We didn’t score on the block,” Self said after his team scored 38 of its 78 points in the paint against Russia. "Landen (Lucas) made two baskets on the block when we threw it over the top. But for the most part, everything was drive it or play to 15-foot jumpers or play to threes. I’ve never played this way. But I’ve learned a lot in the past month.
“We’ve always played to our bigs and we still have to. But you know what, the trust in guys to go one-on-one and make plays has probably made us better basketball players individually.”
Sam Hinkie, the Philadelphia 76ers President of Basketball Operations and General Manager, confirmed in a statement Saturday that the team expects former Kansas center Joel Embiid to miss the entire 2015-16 season.
“A collective decision has been made that the best approach to promote full healing would be to proceed with a bone graft of the fracture site,” Hinkie said in a statement. “We anticipate the procedure will take place in the next 7-10 days and result in Joel missing the upcoming season.”
Embiid, the No. 3 pick in the 2014 NBA draft, missed all of last season with a fractured bone in his right foot.
“I haven’t talked to Joel,” Self said. “I don’t get it. I shouldn’t comment until I talk to him, but hopefully it’s not the case. When he left us, he had no foot problems."