Americans hope first loss will be a learning experience
Stars and Stripes March 26, 2008
MANNHEIM, Germany — As the U.S. team gets ready for Wednesday’s Albert Schweitzer Tournament game against Argentina, it will no doubt be thinking about the hard-earned lessons from Monday’s 91-79 pool-play loss to unbeaten Greece.
“They came out with fire in their eyes,” U.S. coach Lionel Hollins said of the Greek team that went on a 16-2 run in the first 5:10 of the third quarter to build a lead too big for the Americans to overcome. “It showed our players how important the other countries think these games are.”
Greece also started the game roaring, outscoring the Americans 30-18 in the opening 10 minutes. Nikos Pappar scored seven of his game-high 27 points in the quarter, the worst defensive stand by the U.S. in its three games here.
Despite the early deficit, the Americans showed the composure that has characterized their play in this tournament, closing the gap to 45-41 at halftime behind a solid defense and the scoring of 6-foot-10 Erik Murphy, a recruit for the University of Florida. Murphy scored all 10 of his points in the second quarter and added three offensive rebounds.
Whatever encouragement the scoreboard provided, however, was undermined by the number of Americans in foul trouble and the post-intermission lapses on defense and in protecting the ball.
“We got into foul trouble because people weren’t moving their feet,” Hollins said, “and every time we got back into the game we’d commit a turnover.”
Inside players Travis Releford, who’s committed to Kansas, and Wally Judge, who’s bound for Kansas State, both picked up three first-half fouls, which benched them for long periods. The Greeks also took full advantage of the Americans’ 18 turnovers, and although their rebounding margin was just 42-39, almost all of their 13 offensive rebounds resulted in points.
The Greeks’ second-half-opening 16-2 run put them up 64-43 with 4:50 left in the third quarter and had them celebrating each time they got back on defense after a score. Four second-half three-pointers each from Irving Walker, a future Florida Gator who led the U.S. with 25 points, and Cashmere Wright, a future Cincinnati Bearcat who scored 24, got the Americans to 79-70 down with five minutes to play, but the U.S. could get no closer.
Despite the loss — which was greeted deliriously by the overwhelmingly Greek crowd — both teams advanced to a championship round with Spain and Argentina. The top two teams from that pool will advance to a final four with the top two finishers in a second pool composed of Turkey, Australia, Sweden and Canada to decide the winner of the 16-team tournament.
After Wednesday’s game, the Americans are scheduled to play Spain on Thursday. Both games will begin at 8 p.m. at the BFV Sports Arena.
Greece 91U.S. 79
(Pool play Monday at Mannheim)
U.S. 18 23 14 24.....79Greece 30 15 25 21.....91
Scoring—U.S.: Irving Walker 25, Cashmere Wright 24, Erik Murphy 10, Travis Releford 9, Oscar Bellfield 6, Wally Judge 2, Anthony Stover 2, Jeffree Withey 1; Greece: Nikos Pappar 27, Kostas Papanikolaou 16, Leonida Kasselakis 16, Baggelis Mantzaris 9, Kostos Sloukas 9, Nandar Papantoniou 8, Vladimir Jankovic 5, Dimitris Arapis 1.Rebounding—U.S. 39 (Murphy 9, Judge 7, Releford 6); Greece 42 (Pappar 11).Assists—U.S. 10 (Bellfield 4, Walker 4).Blocked shots—U.S. 3 (Judge 2); Greece 6.Fouls—U.S. 24, Greece 17.