RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Co-captain and three-time U.S. Paralympian Steve Serio of Westbury, New York, and Brian Bell of Birmingham, Alabama, connect five times in the first quarter for 10 of his 13 first quarter points to energize the U.S. Men’s Wheelchair Basketball Team past the Islamic Republic of Iran, 93-44, which is a tie for the third most points scored in a single game at the Paralympics for the United States. Now 3-0 in pool play competition at the Rio Paralympics, Team USA will play again at Carioca 1 arena on Sunday against Algeria.
“Steve and I have played a lot together, going back to the University of Illinois, so we know how we think from half court where we swing the ball or getting the ball on a cross down low,” said Bell. “We are together so much as a team and we are in unison on and off the court. We just know where we are all going to be. We focus on defense to create our offensive breaks.”
The United States came out quickly on Saturday building an 8-2 lead with four consecutive baskets off of fast breaks, and four different players scoring. From this point forward, a solid wall of U.S. defenders disturbed the Iranian team with presses, half-court defense sets, steals, double-teams, that created numerous fast breaks opportunities. Serio took advantage of this and went on to have 12 assists in the game and six rebounds. At the end of the first, the Americans held a 23-12 advantage.
The second quarter mirrored Friday’s game, as the United States went on a 21-10 run for the second day in a row, for a 44-22 lead going into half. A total of seven players scored in the first 20 minutes with Bell finishing the day with 19 points. Jake Williams of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, scored 11 of his 14 points in the second.
As a team, the United States was shooting 59 percent from the floor at half, and created an astounding 14 turnovers in the first two quarters.
To start the second half, four-time U.S. Paralympian Matt Scott of Detroit, Michigan, put on a show on both ends of the court scoring 15 points that was highlighted with six points beyond the three-point line, and then closes the quarter with a driving layup for two more points as time expires. Team USA led Iran, 71-27, after three quarters.
Team USA slowed things down in the fourth and finished with a total of 11 of 12 players scoring. Once again, four players found double digits. Co-captain and a three-time U.S. Paralympian Mike Paye of Warren, Michigan, finished with 10 points.
The United States improved its efficiency in the second half finishing the game with a 61 percent field goal percentage, 30 rebounds, 39 assists, 14 steals and forced a team best 24 steals.
“When we put this together, this is the type of team output we were looking for that has a lot of intensity with defense to create offensive opportunities,” said U.S. Men’s Head Coach Ron Lykins. “The guys came in here ready. They were looking to attack and swarm the ball like a pack of wild dogs. Our team is hungry and ready to get to the next game. Every day is going to get tougher and I’m pleased with our performances. We won this game with our defense that set up our offense and the guys were shooting really well and playing unselfish.”
Iran had 10 of its 11 athletes score in the game, with Morteza Ebrahimi leading with 11 points.
The United States will square up with Algeria on Sunday, September 11 at 5 p.m. Eastern in Carioca Arena I. The United States and Algeria have never played against each other at the Paralympic Games.
Team USA, who has defeated the Islamic Republic of Iran on two other occasions (2004 and 2008), remains perfect with a 3-0 mark. The United States overall record in the Paralympic Games is now 73-15.
The U.S. Men’s Team opened the Rio Games by defeating host country Brazil, 75-38. The U.S. men’s team qualified for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games by winning the 2015 Parapan Am Games in Toronto, Canada. The U.S. men outscored the competition by 36 points per game.
Also joining Lykins on the sidelines will be assistant coaches Robb Taylor of Auburn, Alabama, and John Sikora of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Scott Meyer of Columbia, Missouri, will serve as the Team Leader, with Mary Vacala of Savannah, Georgia, filling the athletic trainer position. Also assisting in preparations are strength coach Michael Cohen of Savannah, Georgia, and team psychologist Dr. Roberta Kraus of Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The U.S. men’s team finished with a bronze medal at the London 2012 Paralympics and look to improve in Rio de Janeiro. The men’s team finished seventh in 2004 and fourth in 2008, following bronze-medal performances in 2000 and 1996.
Rio 2016 Paralympic Games
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
September 7-17, 2016
Rio 2016 Paralympic Games Wheelchair Basketball Results
USA def. Brazil, 75-38
USA def. Germany, 77-25
USA def. Islamic Republic of Iran, 93-44
Rio 2016 Paralympic Games U.S. Wheelchair Basketball Record – 3-0