U.S. team beats Israel in Schweitzer opener
March 24, 2008
MANNHEIM, Germany — The U.S. game plan for the Albert Schweitzer International Youth Basketball Tournament was obvious during an 83-61 victory over Israel on Saturday night.
“Coach (Lionel Hollins) emphasized defense and controlling the boards,” said 6-foot-8 forward Wally Judge of Jacksonville, Fla., “and that’s what we did.”
And did so with a vengeance.
The U.S. forced six turnovers, and the Israeli squad missed its first six shots as the U.S. opened a 25-10 in the first quarter.
“That’s always the idea,” Hollins said of the emphatic defensive opening. “All these guys can shoot the ball, so if we can force misses, we get opportunities to get out and run. We’ve got the speed and quickness to do that.”
Saturday’s numbers bore Hollins out: The Americans out rebounded Israel 51-41 and blocked 13 shots.
Judge, a Kansas State recruit who played just 21 minutes, was a big part of both efforts, snaring a game-high 15 rebounds and blocking three shots.
It was the first game that counted for the Americans in this biennial tournament, which pits 15 junior national teams from all over the world against a pick-up team of U.S. stars.
To Judge, however, Saturday’s outing was the same as the Americans’ 80-69 exhibition victory Thursday over Germany or their 76-74 loss to the Proveo Merlins of the German second division the previous night.
“Every game means a lot to me,” Judge said. “You’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game every day.”
For the second straight game, 5-10 point guard Irving Walker of Middle Village, N.Y., led the U.S. in scoring. The University of Florida recruit scored 20 points despite going only 6-for-17 from the floor.
Kansas City product Travis Releford, a 6-5 small forward who’s headed for the University of Kansas, added 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting, and 7-1 Arizona recruit Jeff Withey of San Diego was 5-for-5 from the floor on a 14-point night. Withey also blocked six shots.
The U.S. was to play defending champion France on Sunday night and 2002 champion Greece at 8 p.m. Monday at the Benjamin Franklin Village Sports Arena.
The outcomes of those games will determine whom and when the U.S. plays the rest of the way.
The Americans are seeking to end a 12-year title drought in the tournament, but the pressure’s not on, according to Releford.
“I’m having a good time,” he said. “It’s a great experience to come over here and play against a level of competition you don’t ordinarily see.”