The USA (4-0) remained unbeaten and earned the No. 1 seed for Group C in the 2014 FIBA World Cup with a 106-71 win over Dominican Republic (2-2) on Wednesday evening at Bizkaia Arena in Bilbao, Spain.
Leading from start to finish, the USA had secured a double-digit lead of 56-41 by halftime and then blew the game wide open with a 25-11 third-quarter advantage.
The USA will complete its preliminary-round play on Friday facing Ukraine (2-2) at 11:30 a.m. EDT (ESPN2). Regardless of the outcome, the USA will advance as a No. 1 seed out of Group C into the round of 16, where it will face the No. 4 seed out of Group D on Sept. 6 in Barcelona, Spain.
“I was pleased with our team tonight,” said USA coach Mike Krzyzewski (Duke University). “I thought part of the start was we missed three layups, five free throws. They were short handed with (Francisco) Garcia not playing and what happens, I think, sometimes you don’t want to pile it on, but you also don’t have the edge you normally have. I thought our guys got that. I thought our bench did a great job.
“We’re happy that we’re going to finish first in our pool, so we already know that, and hopefully we can come back tomorrow and play really well against Ukraine.”
Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets) led the USA with 16 points and six rebounds; DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings) added 13 points, five rebounds and six steals in 12 minutes; DeMar DeRozan scored 11 points; and Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans) and James Harden (Houston Rockets) finished with 10 points apiece. Davis also blocked five shots to go with his seven rebounds, and Stephen Curry dished out seven of the USA’s 28 assists.
The USA tallied 66 of its points in the paint and converted Dominican’s 26 turnovers into 36 points. For a second straight night, all 12 U.S. players put points on the board.
Dominican’s leading scorer, Francisco Garcia, who is averaging 21.0 points per game, was injured and did not play in the game.
“I believe everybody felt pretty good with how well they played today,” Cousins said. “You could see it on guy’s faces, you could see with the guys on the bench. Everybody was happy for one-another, everyone was cheering for one-another, and that’s what we are going to need to continue on this path.”
Ten different U.S. players saw time in the first quarter, but the USA was cold to start – shooting just 9-of-23 from the field (.391) in the first period. The USA forced seven Dominican turnovers, however, as seven players helped the USA to a 25-22 advantage.
The USA’s icy shooting did not last. The U.S. pounded the ball inside and attacked the rim to score 18 of its 31 second-quarter points in the paint to help heat up its shooting to 59.1 percent (13-22 FGs). Davis and Faried scored six apiece in the quarter. Allowing Dominican just 19 points, the USA headed into the halftime locker room with a 56-41 advantage.
The USA reeled off six straight points after Dominican scored to open the second half, and led 62-43 at 7:25. The USA closed the quarter with an 11-0 run to lead 81-52 at the final break.
That run stretch into the fourth quarter and totaled 22 unanswered points overall, earning the USA its largest run of the game. The USA’s broke into triple-digit territory with just under a minute remaining when Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons) finished an alley-oop dunk to make it 101-68. As both teams finished of the game with respective 3-pointers, the buzzer sounded on a 106-71 win for the USA.
“Before today, those last two games really got us in mental shape,” said Rudy Gay (Sacramento Kings), who finished with nine points and five assists. “Obviously, you come here and you have USA on your chest, you think things are going to come easy. They tested us. Today we came together and executed and played defense and also played together. Today was a big step for us.”
Also today in the USA’s Group C: New Zealand (1-3) beat Ukraine 73-61, and Turkey (1-2) defeated Finland (1-2) 77-73 in overtime. In Group A in Granada, Spain: Egypt (1-3) topped Iran (0-4) 88-73; Brazil (3-1) won against Serbia (2-2) 81-73; and host Spain (4-0) downed France (2-2) 88-64. In Group B in Seville, Spain: Puerto Rico (1-3) beat the Philippines (0-4) 77-73; Argentina (3-1) was victorious against Senegal (2-2) 81-46; and Greece (4-0) topped Croatia (2-2) 76-65. Finally, in Group D in Gran Canaria, Spain: Australia (3-1) won against Mexico (1-3) 70-62; Slovenia (4-0) beat Angola (1-3) 93-87; and Lithuania (3-1) was victorious against South Korea (0-4) 79-49.
Rounding out Krzyzewski’s USA National Team staff as assistant coaches are Syracuse University and Naismith Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and New Orleans Pelicans head coach Monty Williams.
The top four finishing teams from each of the four preliminary round groups will qualify for the round of 16.
Winners of the round of 16 games will advance to the quarterfinals, while losers are eliminated. Winners of the quarterfinals games will advance to the medal round semifinals, and quarterfinals losers are eliminated from the competition.
Winners of the semifinals will advance to the Sept. 14 gold medal game, and semifinals losers will meet in the bronze medal game on Sept. 13. The round of 16 and semifinals games will be played in Barcelona and Madrid, and the bronze and gold medal games will be held in Madrid.
Since the first FIBA World Championship was held in 1950, the USA has won 11 medals – four gold medals, three silver medals and four bronze medals – while compiling an all time 118-27 win-loss record.
Led By Krzyzewski, the Americans are defending World Champions having claim gold in Istanbul with a 9-0 record.
STATS NOTES: The game was a rematch after the USA topped Dominican Republic 105-62 at Madison Square Garden in New York on Aug. 20 … The USA also collected 17 steals and got 56 points off the bench. … The U.S. owned a slight advantage on the boards, outrebounding Dominican Republic 43-40 … The Dominican Republic was forced into 26 turnovers … Of the USA’s 44 made field goals, 28 were assisted on.