After another slow start, the Americans were able to turn it on and withstand a late charge to top the Brazilians in pool play at the World University Games this morning.
With the way that play started, you could almost believe that these two teams were playing here in Kansas at 6:30 in the morning. The first quarter was littered with poor passes, horribly missed shots, and lots of fouls as both sides played a physical game at a blistering pace. Team USA got out to an 8-6 lead with 4 minutes to go in the quarter, but a hot streak by Brazil put them up 12-8. Wayne Selden drove through a moving defender for a surprising no call, but was able to tie the game with about a minute to go in the quarter. After some more sloppy back and forth play, Brazil made 1 of 2 foul shots to take a 13-12 lead into the break.
After two Brazilians mugged Moore to start the second quarter, throwing elbows in his face after pushing him to the floor, Hunter Mickelson scored the first four points of the second quarter for the Americans. Team USA continued to show an inability to get out to the open shooter, but Brazil wasn't able to capitalize, missing multiple wide-open 3 point shots. Neither team seemed capable of playing defense down low, as both teams drove to the basket with relative ease through pretty much the entire second quarter. But even though they were able to get to the basket, the Brazilians weren't able to keep up with the Americans for long. Trailing 23-21 midway throught the second quarter, the Jayhawks came alive with a 12-0 run that was started and capped by a deep Wayne Selden trey. Brazil went ice cold from the field, only scoring 5 points the rest of the half, and the Americans took a commanding 40-28 lead into the break.
Kansas dominated the Brazilians on the boards in the first half (27-13), and they were hot from the charity stripe, going 12-14. These areas continued to be dominated by the Jayhawks in the third quarter, but the Jayhawks weren't able to keep the hot shooting going. Brazil was able to match Team USA shot for shot for much of the third quarter, even getting the lead down into single digits multiple times. But the fatigue was clearly setting in, as Team USA ended the half on another quick run to stretch the lead to 15 heading into the final period.
A couple quick turnovers to start the final quarter will give Bill Self something to point to in case the team gets a bit overconfident, but even though they let Brazil cut into the lead, it didn't last long. Some good pressure defense got them the ball back, and a Jamari Traylor jumper and Gerald Vick three from the corner pushed the lead to 16. Brazil wasn't done, however, as Nic Moore fouled out and a flurry of shots cut the lead to 8. Selden stopped the bleeding, and Mickelson pushed the lead back up to 13 with just under 6 minutes to go. From there, the lead didn't get below 10 again until after the 1 minute mark. At that point, it was too late, and Team USA was able to celebrate their second victory in the group stage.
The star of today's game was without a doubt Selden. He had a monster game, finishing with 23 points. There were other solid contributions from Jamari Traylor (10 points), Frank Mason (15 points) and Mickelson (11 points), but pretty much everyone got involved. The only player for Team USA who had a noticeably bad game was Moore, as he was plagued with foul trouble early and just couldn't get going. The United States turned the ball over 21 times, which is a bit concerning. Overall, the first couple games have given Americans and Jayhawks alike lots to be excited about.
Up next for the USA is a game with Chile, which will not be televised. We won't have a game thread, but we'll still keep an eye on it.