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'Road-weary' US team falls to Russia in Schweitzer tourney

VIERNHEIM, Germany — Stevie Clark of Oklahoma City scored 30 second-half points on his way to a 38-point evening Thursday, but he and his fatigued U.S. teammates were rarely in the game, falling to Russia 98-78 in a quarterfinal pool game at the 26th biennial Albert Schweitzer Tournament.

“We’re road-weary,” said U.S. team chief Eddie Ford after the Americans fell into 20-point-plus holes for the second straight night. “We’re worn out."

Ford’s charges got a day to rest Friday before playing in the tournament’s seventh-place game at 9 a.m. Saturday at Mannheim’s MWS Halle am Herzogenried against France.

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Whether the Americans have been able to regain the mental edge, which allowed them to make a nearly successful run at Serbia on Monday, remains to be seen.

“Our kids have never been overseas before,” Ford said. “They’re tired of being on the road, and it caught up with them.”

Thursday, the Russian junior national team wore the Americans out in the first half with the three-ball, sinking six-of-10 compared to the Americans‘ two-of-six. However, the Americans battled the Russian height advantage to a near-standstill, tying eight-eight on second-chance points in the first half and losing just 13-12 in that category for the game, despite being out-rebounded 41-29.

Part of the price the Americans paid for keeping it close inside was widespread foul trouble. Two Americans, Austin Nichols of Memphis and Deontaye Curtis of Hoover, Ala., fouled out while being forced to play carefully for much of the contest.

After intermission, the Russians began finding their big men inside for dunks, forcing Clark, who scored eight points in the first half, to do all he could to pick up the slack. He finished the game 11-of-23 from the floor, including eight-of-14 from behind the arc, and eight-of-10 from the line.

Darryl Hicks of Louisville, who finished with 10 points, put the Americans up 2-0 in the game’s first 10 seconds, but Bogdan Bogdanov answered with the first of the Russians’ 10 3-pointers of the night to put his team in the lead to stay.

The Americans trailed 43-33 at the half after the Russians mounted an 8-0 run when the U.S. had cut their lead to 35-33 with 1:49 left in the period. After the break, the U.S. fell behind by as many as 24 several times as fatigue seemed to set in.

“That was the worst half we’ve ever played,” Ford said of Thursday’s final 20 minutes, which saw Americans losing the battle on the glass 22-8 after intermission.

A loss Saturday would consign the U.S. to its worst finish in this event since a team of DODDS-Europe all-stars finished 10th in 1971’s 12-team field. A victory would allow them to equal the seventh-place finish of the 2006 team.

Although the U.S. is by far the most successful team in the 54-year history of the event — 10 gold, one silver and four bronze medals in 26 appearances — the Americans have not won medals since their third-place finish in 2000.  

Box score:

Russia 98, U.S.A. 78
Quarterfinal pool game Thursday at Viernheim, Germany
U.S.A.        13    20    25    20--78
Russia        16    27    27    28--98
Scoring--USA: Stevie Clark 38, Darryl Hicks 10, Austin Nichols 8, Steve Haney Jr. 5, Derrick Willis 5, Marki Bryan 4, Nicholas Smith 4, Deontaye Curtis 2, Collin Hartman 2; Russia: Igor Kanygin 23, Mikhail Kulagin 21, Stanislav Ilnitskiy 17, Bogdan Bogdanov 14, Pavel Krechetov 9, Alexander Martynov 5, Alexander Gankevitch 4, Konstantin Kulilov 3, Andrey Desyatnikov 2. Rebounding--USA 29 (Willis 5, Smith 5); Russia 41 (Kulagin 10, Ilnitskiy 8, Gankevitch 6). Assists--USA 10 (Clark 4); Russia 22 (Ilnitskiy 5, Kulagin 5). Total fouls--USA 28, Russia 22. Fouled out--Curtis, Nichols, Krechetov.

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