Aug. 19, 2005
IZMIR, Turkey - Randy Foye (Newark, N.J./Villanova) and Shelden Williams (Oklahoma City, Okla./Duke) each scored 20 points as the United States men's basketball team advanced to the gold medal game of the Summer World University Games with a 120-80 semifinal victory over Russia.
With the win, the USA improved to 7-0 at the Games and will now play Ukraine for the gold medal on Sunday, Aug. 21 at 3 p.m. at the Halkapinar Sports Hall. Ukraine advanced with a 69-63 win over Serbia & Montenegro.
The U.S. team includes University of Washington senior forward Bobby Jones (Compton, Calif.) who made his only shot during the semifnal. Jones tallied two points and two rebounds.
The USA had six players in double figures as Vincent Grier (Charlotte, N.C./Minnesota) scored 15 points, while Chris Hernandez (Fresno, Calif./Stanford) added 14, Craig Smith (Los Angeles, Calif./Boston College), 13, and Greg Brunner (Mason City, Iowa/Iowa), 10. Williams also pulled down 10 rebounds.
Russia, which was led by Sergey Bykov with 15 points, started the game strong, jumping out to a 21-14 lead in the first quarter as Andrey Trushkin had six points in the first 10 minutes.
Trailing 28-20 early in the second period, the USA used a 9-0 run to take a 29-28 lead on two Williams free throws with 5:31 to play in the quarter.
Trailing 30-29, the Americans broke the game open, going on a 15-0 run fueled by Grier, who had seven points on a variety of drives to the basket. A Grier layup gave the USA a 44-30 lead with 1:15 to play in the second period.
"We just had to continue to play USA basketball and stay focused no matter how the game started," Grier said. "It's all about the team. As long we keep picking each other up and play hard, we will get the reward in the end."
The USA led 48-37 at halftime as Williams had 11 points, and Foye, 10, during the first 20 minutes.
"We were playing hard, they were just playing great early," said USA head coach Jay Wright (Villanova). "I think our depth just wore them down at that point. They had some foul problems late in the second quarter and we took advantage of that."
The Americans advantage continued to swell in the third quarter as Smith had 10 of his points in the period. Consecutive 3-point field goals by Foye gave the U.S. a 63-43 lead with 5:40 to play in the quarter.
"I am pretty pleased," said Foye of his own personal game. "I just try to stay in the system and whenever the offense comes to me, just take the shots."
The harassing defense of Grier was also a factor.
"He was incredible defensively, coming up with so many steals, so many rebounds, and he finished on the other end," said Wright of Grier, who had six steals on the afternoon. "He is quietly our MVP."
The USA outscored Russia 36-22 in the period and led 84-59 after three quarters.
Everyone got in the act in the fourth quarter as the USA built its lead to the final 40-point margin. Hernandez had eight of his points in the final period.
The Russians hurt themselves by making only 19 of 37 free throws in the game, while the USA was 30 of 39. The Americans forced 26 turnovers that included 20 steals, and shot 53 percent (42-78) from the floor.
"I thought we had a good chance of breaking it out if we did what we were supposed to do," said Smith, who also had nine rebounds.
The meeting on Sunday with Ukraine, will be the first time the two countries have played at the World University Games.
"I think they are probably the best defensive team in the tournament," said Wright of Ukraine. "They are very well coached, especially on the defensive end. If you look at every situation they have to handle defensively, you can tell they are well drilled in how to play ball screens, how to play the post. They are very talented."
The USA has now won eight straight World University Games and 54 of the last 55. They have an overall mark of 126-17 and will have now medaled in all 18 Games in which they have participated. On Sunday they will be looking for their 13th gold medal.
"I just want to play our best game on Sunday," Wright said. "That's what we have been working towards since we got together. We have been trying to build a team. We have been coming together as a team, and if we play our best team game on Sunday, I'm happy. If we play our best team game and lose, than I give Ukraine credit."
2005 USA World University Games Team
The 2005 World University Games men's basketball competition will include 32 teams and the United States has been placed in preliminary round Group F with Germany, Iran and Slovakia. Also listed among this years competitors are Brazil, Finland, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates in Group A; Group B consists of Haiti, Serbia & Montenegro, South Korea and Sweden; Group C includes Cyprus, Japan, Republic of South Africa and Russia; in Group D are Angola, Canada, Italy and Portugal; while China, Croatia, Czech Republic and Peru have been placed in Group E; Group G consists of Australia, Great Britain, Lebanon and Lithuania; while Group H includes Estonia, Greece, Mexico and Spain.
The USA men in past WUG competitions have dominated, compiling a 125-17 overall record (.880 winning percentage) while medaling in all 17 Games in which they have participated, including 12 gold medals. In 2001, the most recent WUG's in which the U.S. men competed, the USA saw its streak of six consecutive golds and 46 consecutive wins come to a halt when host China, led by it's `Walking Wall' of Menk Batere, Yao Ming and ZhiZhi Wang, all of whom competed for China at the 2000 Olympic Games the previous summer, edged the U.S. collegians 83-82 in the semifinals. The USA squad finished 7-1 to claim the 2001 WUG bronze medal.
(text provided by USA Basketball)