The USA Men’s Team generated offensive opportunities as they usually do, but was unable to create sustained production as they shot a modest 35% from the field against Turkey. Ultimately, their staple of suffocating defense once again pushed them forward to the medal round.
Brian Bell cam up big once again. Bell, who helped his team avert an opening loss against Germany, paced his squad with 8 of their 11 points in the first quarter. His first two baskets, the first two for Team USA, came off assists from Steve Serio. Bell is an impressive offensive weapon who has great range on his shot and can also create looks against larger defenders inside the paint with his agility and quick release.
Bell discussed his his impact and the make-up of this team.
“I just pride myself on being able to be ready and available in those big moments and make big shots," he said. "I feel like our team is so deep. Anyone of us can go off for a big amount of points. You can see that from the previous games that every time a new game comes around someone else is the top scorer.”
USA settled in on defense after giving up 18 points in the first quarter and held Turkey to a paltry eight points in the second quarter. A core part of the USA defense is Trevon Jenifer (a 2.5-classified player) who subbed into this game with about two minutes left in the first and remained on the court for the rest of the game.
Head Coach Ron Lykins had nothing but praise for Jenifer.
“I’m kind of at a loss because I don’t know where to start. Defensively, full court and even in the half court, he can guard anybody from 1.0 up to 4.5. He’s invaluable and I can’t imagine trying have a squad without him on there," he said.
In the third quarter, Team USA tightened the clamps on Turkey holding them to just six points. Jenifer talked about the collective effort in the half court that yielded seven steals and forced 17 total turnovers in game.
“It’s a team effort from day 1. We know that we gotta go out here and play defense and that’s the number 1 thing we gotta do and we were able to lock in on the defensive end even though we weren’t hitting the offensive bunnies," he said.
In the fourth quarter, Turkey came within two points (47-45) off clutch shooting from their superstar, Ozgur Gurbulak. The Turkish scorer had the second highest scoring average in the tournament, so it was no surprise that he turned it on in the final quarter after being largely contained by the American defense.
End of game free throws proved to be crucial for the U.S. as they worked to seal their position in the semifinals. Reminiscent of the opening game against Germany, Coach Lykins inserted Josh Turek into the game as part of his end game management. The Turks had no choice but to foul Turek, who calmly went to the line and, once again, earned his reputation as a high stakes scorer by sinking both free throws.
Jake Williams, who had an uncharacteristically low shooting performance, also went to the line and sunk three of four free throws to stave off the Turkish comeback.
USA will face Spain in the semifinal on Friday, September 3rd (time TBD) in a rematch of the Rio 2016 gold medal game.