HAMBURG, GERMANY - Through the first ten minutes of the game, Argentina played a U.S. team coming off of a record-setting win tit-for-tat.
But the gold-medal winning team of the 2016 Paralympics showed why they are the No. 1-ranked team in the world.
The United State used a 43-7 scoring run in the second and third quarter to roll past Argentina and into the semifinals with a 72-31 win. Brian Bell of Birmingham, Alabama led all scores with 17 points and grabbed five rebounds. Aaron Gouge of Wake Forest, North Carolina came off the bench and dropped 11 points.
“We know that it’s one and done now,” said Steve Serio of Westbury, New York. “Pool play is over, and we know how important these games are… We didn’t take this game lightly.”
Bell got off to another quick start, scoring eight points in the opening frame. He made a number of unselfish plays, diving for balls and fighting for rebounds. Argentina had a clear size advantage over the U.S., and that allowed them to keep the game close early on. They held a 11-10 lead at 4:43 in the first quarter. That lead lasted for 15 seconds, and turned out to be the only and final time they led in the contest. The U.S ended the quarter up 16-12.
Matt Scott of Detroit, Michigan and Trevon Jenifer of Huntingtown, Maryland started the second quarter, and with them started the Team USA defensive onslaught. U.S. men’s head coach Ron Lykins of Columbia, Missouri called on his team’s trademark full-court pressure scheme, derailing an visibly frustrated Argentina team. Hands flew everywhere, short chair movements stopped defenders, and the Americans outscored Argentina 18-3 in the period. The Argentinians could only muster one made field goal in the quarter, recording more turnovers (eight) than shot attempts (five). The U.S. went into halftime up 34-16.
“We pride ourselves on our defense,” said Lykins. “It’s an attitude, and that’s what we want to have. We want to make teams to play and do what we want.”
The Americans kept up the defensive pressure, and the third quarter turned into a comedy of errors for the Argentina offense. Five-second violations. Eight-second violations. Shot-clock violations. Travels. Argentina piled up 22 turnovers in the contest, unable to solve the U.S. defense. Again, every player for Team USA entered the game for almost a quarter of playing time. Ten of the U.S.’s 12 players scored in this game.
Team USA’s men improve to 5-0 in the IWBF World Championships. The U.S. will play either Australia or Poland in the semifinals on Thursday at 7:30 a.m. Eastern. No matter who they play, Jenifer says his team will be ready.
“We don’t really focus on the next opponent, we focus on ourselves,” said Jenifer. “We focused on our defensive energy coming into this game and that was once of the things we were able to accomplish. So moving forward, we’re going to try to put forth that same defensive intensity.”
Joining Lykins on the sideline are his assistant coaches 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)
USA def. Argentina, 82-31 (5-0)
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 (Crossover game)
8/22 vs Argentina, 6:00 AM (Quarterfinals)
8/23 vs Australia/Poland, 7:30 AM (Semifinals)
The U.S. men enter the quarterfinals of the IWBF Championships against Argentina today at 8:00 AM, EST. Stay here to watch the game, get live stats and post-game recaps!