In their first dose of international competition as a team, the United States Men’s Under-21 squad started strong but finished flat against Novum Lublin, a basketball club located in Lublin, Poland, squandering a big lead before losing 81-82 at Mosir Lublin Gymnasium. For the Americans, today’s warm-up game was an opportunity to get into game form and build chemistry, something that U.S. National Team Head Coach Keith Westhoelter considers to be of utmost importance. He seemed take this to heart, for all 11 players on the team put in substantial minutes.
In the first fifteen minutes, however, it did not seem as if they needed warming up, for the athleticism of the United States appeared to be too much for the host Rams. Using an effective 1-2-2 press, the Americans forced a number of turnovers and turned them into transition points. By five-minute mark of the second quarter, the U.S. found themselves leading 40-11. However, Novum Lublin used a 16-1 run to close out the half, getting itself back into the game trailing by 14. After intermission, the U.S. could not regain the dominance it experienced in the early phases of the game. Novum Lublin used their height advantage to gradually chip away at the U.S. lead before taking it for the first time with two minutes remaining in the game, in large part due to untimely turnovers committed by the Americans.
“There were times when it didn’t seem as if everyone was on the same page, but that’s to be expected when a team has only had two practices together,” said point guard Kevin Berrigan (Frederick, Md.), who had four points while taking only two shots, but dished out eight assists to go along with five boards and three steals. “However, every time we play together, we continue to get better as a team,” he added. Despite the loss, U.S. coaches did not seem too concerned with the outcome. “It wasn’t about winning or losing tonight,” Westhoelter said afterwards. “It was about everyone getting a feel for one another and preparing for the next ten days. Hopefully the guys will learn from this and use it as a tool as we go for the Gold.”
Leading the U.S. in scoring was 6’4” forward Greg White (Centerville, Ohio), who poured in 16 points to go along with four rebounds. Guard Brandon McMillan (Frederick, Md.) chipped in 12 points and swingmen Gabriel Paulone (Fishers, Ind.) and Raymond Nelson (Riverside, Calif.) each scored 11. 6’6 swingman Tyler Crace of Westfield, Indiana aded 6 points. The U.S. will have one more full practice on Thursday morning and another scrimmage versus a Polish basketball club on Thursday evening before beginning pool play against Venezuela on Friday. (contributed by Colin Whited of Fishers, Indiana)