The United States held off a game Serbia, likely one of the best teams in the tournament, to move into 4-0 in its pool and clinch advancement into the next round. The United States will also win its pool and could potentially snare the top overall seed with a victory over Switzerland tonight.
The United States and Serbia both struggled offensively, with the Americans going just 5-21 on 3-pointers, one of which the clutch three to tie it by Wayne Selden with just seconds left in the game. It was a tough, foul heavy game with Mason fouling out, two other Americans with four fouls, and Serbia committing 18 as a team, though they were a bit more spread out than the Americans.
In the end, the United States won the game via the turnover battle, turning the ball over on just 14.5 percent of its possessions. Though neither team shot well, nor grabbed a lot of offensive rebounds, but the extra possessions from winning the turnover battle were the difference.
The main story at the end of the game came when Serbia chose to foul Wayne Selden with a handful of seconds left in order to get the ball back rather than facing a scenario in which either the USA would win in regulation or it would go into overtime. I was planning a huge breakdown of all the math involved in this strategy (because there is a time where it is the correct strategy) but chose not to in this case because 1. the math is pretty simple in this case, as Serbia wasn't a huge underdog in overtime thanks to Frank Mason fouling out as well as how good Serbia is, not to mention Wayne Selden got two shots rather than just a 1 and 1, and 2. someone else has thankfully already done the math for me.
- Frank Mason fouled out, but until then had a nice game, going 4-6 on twos and grabbing six rebounds to go with his four assists. Three turnovers and shooting just 25 percent on 3-pointers wasn't great, but I've yet to see a point guard better than him in the tournament.
- Wayne Selden had another nice game, and while I still think he's an NBA player, he at the very least has put himself on the radar of scouts over in the better European leagues with an MOP worthy tournament thus far. Selden was just 2-8 from three, but 7-10 on twos and he got to the rim virtually whenever he wanted to against older professional players.
- Lagerald Vick played just 6 minutes but made a huge three down the stretch to keep the Americans in the game.
- Nic Moore really struggled to shoot the ball, going just 1-11 from the field, but he did have 6 assists without turning the ball over so while I think he's maybe struggling to adjust to playing against slightly better competition, it's not worth writing him off.
- Julian Debose played 12 minutes without attempting a shot, but grabbed 3 rebounds and played some decent wing defense.
- Carlton Bragg played without his mask, which is a great sign, but struggled a bit in this one, committing four fouls in just 11 minutes of playing time.
- Jamari Traylor had a very Traylor like game, grabbing a steal and launching a deep outlet pass to Selden for a dunk, providing a great switch on Serbia's last shot, coupled with some frustrating out of control play and an inability to rebound.
- Landen Lucas continued his rough tournament, not making a shot in just about seven minutes. I don't think it says much about his outlook for this season, as he's clearly more suited for the less up and down and more structured play of the college game.
- Perry Ellis shot just 2-11, but drew the most fouls on the team along with Mason and grabbed nine rebounds in the game, as well as grabbing two steals and a blocked shot. While one would obviously want him to shoot it better, it's a good sign if he can impact games without scoring.
- Hunter Mickelson was a revelation in this one, going 6-10 from the field and finishing with the second highest point total on the team. Mickelson also grabbed seven rebounds (five offensive), had two steals, and two blocked shots. We need defensive rebounding more than offensive rebounding, but if he can provide some semblance of defensive rebounding, his rim protection could earn him some playing time next season.