TORONTO, Canada – In a game to determine Group A’s No. 1 seed for the Pan American Games medal round semifinals, Brazil’s (3-0) offensive rebounding and 3-point accuracy doomed the USA (2-1) as the American men fell 93-83 Thursday night in Toronto, Canada.
Already assured before the game of advancing to the medal round semifinals, with the loss the USA finished second in Group A and will meet host and Group B No. 1 seed Canada (3-0) at 6:00 p.m. (EDT) in one of Friday’s two semifinal games. The game is scheduled to be broadcast live on ESPN2. Brazil will face Group B’s No. 2 seed, Dominican Republic (1-2), in the 1:30 p.m. EDT semifinal.
“I think the first thing is us, again, keeping our composure when we hit adversity. We’ve got to do a better job with that. It’s a road game. It’s just like playing a road game in college or in the NBA. So, we’ve got to control the things that we can control. We can’t control their fans, and we can’t control the officials. But, we can control our energy, and we can control our toughness. We can control our ability to stay together; we are going to have to do that,” said USA head coach Mark Few (Gonzaga) about the USA’s semifinal game.
“They’ve got their two NBA guys inside in (Anthony) Bennett and (Andrew) Nicholson, and we really got to keep them off the glass. This is probably the other very, very good rebounding team in this tournament, and I think that will be a real big key. And then (Brady) Heslip is really shooting it well from 3, not unlike Vitor Benite, so we cannot let him get going from 3.”
Keith Langford (UNICS Kazan, Russia/Fort Worth, Texas) paced the USA’s offensive effort against Brazil scoring 17 points, Bobby Brown (Dongguan Leopards, China/Los Angeles, Calif.) and Taurean Prince (Baylor/San Antonio, Texas) each added 16 points and Anthony Randolph (Lokomotiv-Kuban, Russia/ Pasadena, Calif.) chipped in 15 points.
“We knew coming in that Brazil was really, really good, and thus far through the tournament, they had probably played as good as anybody,” said Few. “You got to give Brazil a lot of credit. They stepped up and made shots. (Vitor) Benite shot the heck out of it. Some of their other guys, some of their bigs that hadn’t been shooting it great in this tournament, stepped up and made some shots also.
“And, again, their physical style – they really pounded us on the glass. We had a heck of a time keeping them off the glass, and I thought that really hurt us in the first half. And then their physicality in the half court, we couldn’t really get much going. We were trying to get our guys to push it, and get it in the open floor and create early offense that way. When we did that, we were pretty successful, but when we didn’t, we got kind of bogged down with their physicality and struggled to score.”
Brazil and its guard Vitor Benite set the tone for this clash in the first quarter. As a team, Brazil made 5-of-10 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes alone and also gathered in 13 rebounds, six coming on the offensive glass. Benite, who would finish the night with 34 points on 8-of-11 shooting from 3-point, scored 12 points in the first stanza, sinking 3-of-4 3s.
With the score 10-9 in Brazil’s favor and 4:23 left in the opening quarter, Benite got cooking and drained three consecutive 3-pointers as Brazil slipped ahead 19-12.
Keith Langford (UNICS Kazan, Russia/Fort Worth, Texas) hit a 3 and added two free throws with 20 seconds left in the quarter to close the gap to 22-17, but Augusto Lima scored with a second left in the first quarter to expand Brazil’s lead to seven, 24-17.
The USA continued to hang around and trailed 43-38 with 1:52 to play before halftime, but Brazil added four points off of six free throws attempts to take a 47-38 lead at the intermission.
Falling behind 56-40 after back-to-back 3-pointers from two different Brazilians, Ron Baker (Wichita State/Scott City, Kan.) made four free throws and Prince made consecutive baskets to help cut Brazil’s lead to 56-48 with 4:19 left in the third quarter.
But again Benite almost single-handily did the U.S. in, scoring 13 of Brazil’s next 19 points to help propel Brazil to a 75-57 advantage after three quarters of play.
Down but not out, the USA refused to call it quits.
Trailing 81-63 with 6:12 left in the game, the USA rallied. Behind four points from Langford and four points from Damien Wilkins (Indios de Mayagüez, Puerto Rico/Orlando, Fla.), the red, white and blue reeled off 10-straight points to close the deficit to 82-73 with 3:51 to play.
Benite’s seventh 3 of the night reasserted Brazil’s control, 90-75, but Prince scored eight-straight points to make the score 90-83 with 1:15 left in the game. The U.S. missed a scoring opportunity with a turnover, and fittingly, Benite sealed the game with his final 3-pointer that came with 28.6 seconds left to make the score 93-83.
“The thing that sticks out is their guard, (Vitor) Benite, obviously having 30-plus points. In international competition, 30 is like 50, so we can’t let one guy have that,” said Langford.
For the night the USA shot 45.5 percent from the field, made 6-of-17 3-point tries and converted on 27-of-31 free throws. Brazil made 52.5 percent of its shots overall and a sizzling 57.7 percent (15-26) of its 3-point attempts.
Brazil outworked the USA on the glass by a 32-28 margin. The U.S. committed just 10 turnovers, while Brazil had 12.
“I really want to win this gold bad,” said Randolph. “Nothing else matters besides that. So, I’m just happy that we have the opportunity to still achieve that goal, and that’s the most important thing right now. So, we got to get ready for Canada. Tonight is over.”
Thursday’s other results saw Argentina (1-2) defeat Dominican Republic 80-70; Puerto Rico (1-2) upended Venezuela (0-3) 89-72; and Canada ran away from Mexico (1-2) 96-76.
The 2015 Pan American Games men’s basketball competition is being held July 21-25 in Toronto, Canada.
The top two finishing teams from each preliminary-round group will advance to the medal-round semifinals on July 24, while the third and fourth-placed teams will play for fifth-eighth places. The semifinal winners will compete for the gold medal on July 25, and the semifinal losers will play for bronze.
Assisting Few with the 2015 U.S. Pan American Men’s Basketball Team is University of Colorado’s Tad Boyle and longtime NBA coach Mike Brown.
Overall, the Americans have now compiled an 89-16 record and captured eight gold medals, three silver medals and two bronze medals.