The Day After: USA sweeps pool play with win over Swiss
For the final pool play game of the World University Games, the United States men's basketball team ended on a strong note, dominating Switzerland for a 96-57 victory at DongKang College Gymnasium.
In terms of seeding and advancing into the medal rounds, there was nothing on the line for the Jayhawks. This one was all about pride, and the Jayhawks proved this tournament meant a lot to them, putting on a show in at the end of the first half, then turning the game into a dunk contest in the third quarter.
Kansas University junior guard Wayne Selden Jr, who has already done so much for the Jayhawks in this tournament, had four dunks in the wild third quarter.
Florida Gulf Coast senior guard Julian DeBose led the squad with a team-high 18 points, while Selden added 16, and senior forward Perry Ellis and freshman guard Lagerald Vick both had 11 points.
The Jayhawks pulled away with an 18-0 run at the beginning of the third quarter, shooting 59 percent from the floor in the rout.
The Jayhawks did what they needed to do — and then some. After a close game against Serbia, they found an early rhythm on offense and were tough to stop, shooting 59 percent from the floor and 59 percent from the three-point line. It was a good tune-up for the medal rounds, and the Jayhawks had every player get involved.
Three reasons to smile
1 – In the blowout, nobody played more than 20 minutes. Kansas coach Bill Self said his team played really tired against Serbia on Wednesday. The Jayhawks received evenly-spread minutes in Thursday's win followed by an off day on Friday to prepare for today's quarterfinals matchup against Lithuania.
Selden played the most at 20:11, then the next starter was SMU senior guard Nic Moore with 16:24.
2 – In the medal rounds, the Jayhawks are going to need big contributions off of the bench and Julian DeBose and Lagerald Vick proved they can do that. DeBose couldn't miss, scoring 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including three buzzer-beaters. Vick has made great strides in this tournament and had 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting with seven rebounds.
The more those two guards off of the bench can help Selden, Moore and KU junior guard Frank Mason III, it bodes well for the Jayhawks.
"Lagerald can be an elite player," Self said. "The thing about our team right now, now you add Nic Moore, which he’s obviously a good player. But we don’t three really, really good perimeter players with us. I mean really good — Devonté (Graham), Svi (Mykhailiuk) and Brannen (Greene). It could be fun. It could be fun on the perimeter.
"We need a big guy to step up. Cheick (Diallo) is not here obviously and Dwight (Coleby) is not here but Dwight has to sit out next year. But we need to get our big guys to continue to progress. Hunter (Mickelson) has shown unbelievable signs of doing that. I’m excited about it.
"I think Lagerald has a chance. Now there’s no guarantees, but if he can get to where he can play to his athletic ability and be able to react instead of think, which right now, he’s thinking way too much, I think he could be a terrific player."
3 – After shooting the ball so poorly against Serbia at times, the Jayhawks couldn't miss on Thursday. In the first three quarters, USA shot 36-for-54 (67 percent... not a typo). Obviously, Switzerland wasn't a top team in the pool, but with the tight rims, it's always a good sign when the Jayhawks can shoot that well.
“It’s a lot easier to play when you make shots," Self said. "We shot it so bad yesterday. Today the guys were relaxed and it seemed like they made just about everything they threw up there.”
Three reasons to sigh
1 – It's hard to find a lot of negatives in a 39-point win, but KU junior forward Landen Lucas has looked out of sync for the last two games. After picking up a start against Serbia, Lucas didn't play in the second half of that game, then he was one of the two scoreless players (along with Evan Manning) on Thursday. Lucas was 0-for-2 from the floor in 13 minutes with two rebounds, an assist and a block. Remember against Chile — three games ago — Lucas was strong with nine points and eight rebounds.
2 – USA had a big lead in the first quarter, but had a bad stretch helping Switzerland get back into the game. Obviously the bad stretch didn't have an impact on the game, but the Jayhawks led 23-8 with 3:14 left in the first quarter, then Switzerland cut the margin to 29-24 with 7:43 remaining in the second quarter.
“Of course, coach got us on a little bit," DeBose said. "When we get in the game we can’t let the team fall out, we have to pick the team up. I did my best. Next time I got in, I changed that.”
3 – I'm nitpicking, but the Jayhawks didn't play great defense in the first half. With the Jayhawks' offense rolling, they had a chance to set up their defense on the other end. But there were a few stretches where they couldn't get multiple stops in a row. In the second half, when the Jayhawks turned up the pressure, they had 12 turnovers and forced Switzerland into poor shots.
"We didn’t guard anybody early on," Self said. "Guys were just kind of out there trading baskets. If we’re going to have a chance to advance from this point forward, you can’t trade baskets."
The Jayhawks will play Lithuania in the World University Games quarterfinals at noon today (10 p.m. Friday CDT) at DongKang College Gymnasium. Lithuania is the No. 1 scoring offense in the tournament, and the Jayhawks are statistically No. 2, so it should be a high-flying matchup between two teams that can really score the ball.
The game will be broadcast by ESPNU and we will have a live blog, just like any regular season game, right here on KUsports.com.