HAMBURG, GERMANY - Another wire-to-wire victory for the U.S. men in the IWBF World Championships, and its most convincing win to date.
Six U.S. players scored in double-figures during their 82-31 rout over Morocco. The 51-point margin of victory shatters the team's previous IWBF World Championship record of 49 point set in 2010 against Poland. Jared Arambula of Valparaiso, Indiana led all scorers with 14 points.
“We just tried to come out focused,” said Arambula. “It’s crossover [games] now; it’s win-or-go-home time.”
The win showcased just how deep Team USA’s roster goes. The U.S. set this record without arguably its best all-around player and team captain, Steve Serio of Westbury, New York, attempting a single shot.
It took both teams a couple of minutes to find their groove in the first quarter, until Brian Bell of Birmingham, Alabama drained a three-pointer at the end of the shot clock for the U.S. That bucket got him and team going, opening the game on a 12-0 run. Bell and Jake Williams of Milwaukee, Wisconsin paced the U.S. in the first quarter. Bell scored all of his 11 points in the period while Williams added 7 of his own. Morocco had no answer for the U.S. high-pressure defense. They were unable to get any looks close to the basket, shooting 2-for-11 (18 percent) and found themselves down 24-4 at the end of the first.
The U.S. defense locked into its full court press in the first half. Aaron Gouge of Wake Forest, North Carolina, Matt Scott of Detroit, Michigan, and Serio made it nearly impossible for the Moroccans to even get the ball past half court. Morocco went scoreless for a six-minute stretch from the end of the first quarter to the middle of the second. The American defense looked one step ahead of their counterparts, tipping and intercepting passes to rack up 12 steals in the contest.
“We’re looking to get stops,” said Arambula. “I’m looking to get chair position. We’re all looking to play help defense, in constant communication all the time. If we work together, then we think we can be one of the better teams here.”
On offense, Team USA got whatever shot they wanted: easy looks in transition, layups out of the pick and roll, open jumpshots out of set plays. Arambula opened the second quarter with a personal 8-0 run. Gouge scored seven of his 11 points in the quarter, with a few coming off slick feeds from Scott (team-high seven assists). The U.S. held a commanding 51-17 lead at the half.
Jorge Sanchez of Oakland California and veteran Mike Paye of Gross Pointe, Michigan carried the offensive load for Team USA in the second half. Paye showed off his textbook shooting stroke on a few mid-range jumpers, scoring six points in the period. Sanchez played his role as instant offense, scoring nine of his 11 points in the third quarter going a perfect 4-of-4 shooting.
“I know when I come into the game it’s to bring energy and produce right off the bench, and that’s what I did,” said Sanchez. “Just gave my teammates energy, played great defense, then came out and scored.”
Paye finished the game with 10 points and five rebounds. For the gold medal U.S. Paralympian, this record-breaking win is part of a “once in a lifetime opportunity."
Statistically, the U.S. had an advantage in every box score metric over its opponent.
The men remain unbeaten at 4-0 in the IWBF World Championships, winning their games by an average of just under 29 points. The U.S. will play the winner of the Netherlands/Turkey crossover game Wednesday morning at 5:45 a.m. Eastern.
NWBA Hall of Famer Ron Lykins of Columbia, Missouri is the head coach. His assistants are Robb Taylor of Auburn, Alabama, and John Sikora of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Scott Meyer of Columbia, Missouri, serves as the Team Leader, with Mary Vacala of Savannah, Georgia, filling the athletic trainer position. Assisting Valaca at the trainer position is Jeremy Johnson of Dothan, Alabama.
The U.S. men have returned home with a medal from every World Championships since 1975, accumulating six gold medals and four silver medals. USA has played for the gold medal in 9 of the last 10 IWBF World Championships, most recently winning silver in 2014.
2018 IWBF World Championships
August 16 - 26, 2018
2018 IWBF World Championships Results
USA def. Poland, 82-51 (1-0)
USA def. Great Britain, 66-59 (2-0)
USA def. South Korea, 75-49 (3-0)
USA def. Morocco, 82-31 (4-0)
U.S. Men’s Schedule for 2018 IWBF World Championships
8/18 vs Poland, 3:30 AM (Eastern/New York)
8/19 vs Great Britain, 2:15 PM
8/20 vs South Korea, 8:00 AM
8/21 vs Morocco, 2:00 AM
8/22 vs Netherlands/Turkey, TBA
The U.S. men play their crossover match of the IWBF Championships against Morocco today at 4:00 AM, EST. Stay here to watch the game, get live stats and post-game recaps!