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Stingy Serbs await Team USA in pool play

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So far at the World University Games — and in the three exhibitions that preceded it — Team USA/Kansas has remained unscathed against its international competition.

Bill Self’s Jayhawks, SMU’s Nic Moore and Florida Gulf Coast’s Julian DeBose pulled away late in two Kansas City warmups against Canada, ran away with a scrimmage against China and improved to 3-0 in pool play by blowing out Chile while most of us slept last night in the U.S.

So far, so good, for sure. But tonight (Wednesday in Gwangju, South Korea) the KU/USA contingent faces its most difficult opponent yet: Serbia.

Members of the Serbian team break from a huddle at the end of their practice before Team USA took the court for a practice at Gwangju High School Wed., July 1. Team USA will play an exhibition game against China on Thursday, July 2 and will play Serbia in tournament pool play Wed., July 8.

Members of the Serbian team break from a huddle at the end of their practice before Team USA took the court for a practice at Gwangju High School Wed., July 1. Team USA will play an exhibition game against China on Thursday, July 2 and will play Serbia in tournament pool play Wed., July 8. by Mike Yoder

The U.S. and Serbia — both 3-0 — are the only two unbeaten teams in Group D.

Serbia beat Switzerland, 58-41; toppled Chile, 69-43; and handled Turkey, 61-43.

Team USA struggled early before knocking off both Turkey, 66-57, and Brazil, 82-72, then smoked Chile, 106-41.

Clearly, Serbia and the U.S. are winning with different styles of basketball. The Serbs have stifled opponents, keeping all three to point totals in the low 40’s, while Team USA’s scoring has gone up in each World University Games contest. There’s no way that trend will continue against Serbia. But a grind-it-out, defensive game never made Self sweat, either.

As KU’s coach told our Bobby Nightengale Jr. after the Chile rout:

“Tomorrow will be a big-boy game, without question. Serbia is one of the best teams here.”

With that in mind, here’s a look at how USA and Serbia compare statistically at the World University Games, entering this matchup, which could end up determining the winner of Group D — you can watch the pool-play showdown live on ESPNU at 10 p.m. tonight, and follow along at our live blog.

FIELD GOAL %: USA, 93/204 (45.6%); Serbia, 68/182 (37.4%)

2-POINT FGs: USA, 70/136 (51.5%); Serbia, 50/117 (42.7%)

Kansas center Hunter Mickelson (42) blocks a shot during a 106-41 Team USA win against Chile Tuesday, July 7, at the World University Games in South Korea.

Kansas center Hunter Mickelson (42) blocks a shot during a 106-41 Team USA win against Chile Tuesday, July 7, at the World University Games in South Korea. by Mike Yoder

OPPONENT FG%: USA, 60/177 (33.9%); Serbia, 44/165 (26.7%)

  • Serbia is the only team in the field holding opponents below 30%.

3-POINTERS: USA, 23/68 (33.8%); Serbia, 18/65 (27.7%)

OPPONENT 3-POINT %: USA, 19/74 (25.7%); Serbia, 6/62 (9.7%)

  • As you probably already guessed, no one at the World University Games has defended the 3-point arc like the Serbs.

FREE THROWS: USA, 44/61 (72.1%); Serbia, 34/56 (60.7%)

POINTS PER GAME: USA, 84.3; Serbia, 62.7

POINTS ALLOWED PER GAME: USA, 56.7; Serbia, 42.3

  • Serbia leads the entire field in points allowed; the U.S. ranks fourth.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) pulls down one of his 14 rebounds in a Team USA game against Chile Tuesday, July 7, at the World University Games in Muan, South Korea..

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) pulls down one of his 14 rebounds in a Team USA game against Chile Tuesday, July 7, at the World University Games in Muan, South Korea.. by Mike Yoder

REBOUNDS PER GAME: USA, 46.3; Serbia, 47.7

  • The U.S. and Serbia rank third and second, respectively, in the field, with Germany leading the way at 53.0.

OFFENSIVE REBOUNDS PER GAME: USA, 15.3; Serbia, 16.0

ASSISTS PER GAME: USA, 11.0; Serbia, 10.7

TURNOVERS PER GAME: USA, 16.7; Serbia, 15.7

STEALS PER GAME: USA, 13.3; Serbia, 10.7

BLOCKS PER GAME: USA, 1.7; Serbia, 1.7

FOULS PER GAME: USA, 17.7; Serbia, 20.7

Serbia’s outstanding defensive numbers might be a bit skewed due to two of its games coming against Switzerland and Chile, both winless, but defense is easier to maintain from game to game than hot shooting.

The Serbs have a few individuals who have stood out so far — and for comparison’s sake, we’ll include the numbers of some USA players with each case.

Aleksandar Marelja leads the team in scoring, with 14.0 points per game, which ranks seventh overall at the World University Games.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) drives to the basket in a 106-41 Team USA win against Chile Tuesday, July 7, at the World University Games in South Korea.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) drives to the basket in a 106-41 Team USA win against Chile Tuesday, July 7, at the World University Games in South Korea. by Mike Yoder

  • Team USA’s Wayne Selden Jr. leads all players in scoring (20.0), and Frank Mason III is second (16.7).

A 6-foot-9 forward, Marelja also leads the Serbs with 7.7 rebounds per game (seventh among all players), and has shot 57.1% from the field (eighth).

  • For the U.S., Perry Ellis averages a team-best 7.3 rebounds (tied for ninth).

  • Selden has made 22 of 37 shots (59.5%, sixth).

However, Marelja has been a non-factor from 3-point distance, where teammate Dusan Kutlesic has shot 4-for-7 (57.1%).

  • The U.S. doesn’t have a player in the top 10 in 3-point percentage, but Selden has made eight, and Moore is right behind him, with seven.

Stefan Pot leads the low-key Serbia offense in assists, at 3.3 (tied for ninth).

  • Mason’s 4.0 assists lead Team USA.

Pot also has drawn 6.3 fouls per game (third), a category in which his teammate Milan Milovanovic also ranks high (4.3, tied for eighth).

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) drives to the basket in a Team USA game against Chile Tuesday, July 7, at the World University Games at Muan Indoor Court in South Korea.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) drives to the basket in a Team USA game against Chile Tuesday, July 7, at the World University Games at Muan Indoor Court in South Korea. by Mike Yoder

  • Mason leads all players, with 8.3 fouls drawn a game.

The most active perimeter player for the Serbs, Pot averages a team-best 2.7 steals (tied for sixth).

  • No one from the U.S. ranks in the top 10.

Big man Milovanovic has had issues with taking care of the ball, giving it away 3.7 times a game (tied for fifth-worst mark).

  • The USA has avoided this dubious top 10.

Comments

Shannon Gustafson 2 years, 4 months ago

Interesting that Selden and Mason are the overall scoring leaders and Mason draws more fouls by a significant margin.

Looks like a very good matchup statistically and we already knew it would be a dog fight. Can't wait!

Gary McCullough 2 years, 4 months ago

Watching KU play now is Christmas in July! Thanks to whoever choose the Jayhawks to represent in South Korea.

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