Beasley, USA outlast Serbia, 82-78

NOVI SAD, Serbia - Behind 19 points, including a late three to give the U.S. the lead for good, from Stephen Curry (Davidson / Charlotte, N.C.), the 2007 USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team (3-0) finished out preliminary pool play undefeated after eking out an 82-78 victory over host Serbia (2-1) on Saturday evening in Novi Sad, Serbia.

The U.S. advances to the second round at the top of Group B and will meet Lithuania on July 16 (times TBD), Brazil on July 17 and preliminary second round play ends with a game against France on July 18. The quarterfinals are slated to be played July 20, semifinals on July 21 and the gold medal will be contested on July 22.

"I have great respect for Serbian basketball," said USA and DePaul University head coach Jerry Wainwright. "I am 60-years-old and spent many years in my past with clinics and recruiting in Europe. Coaches like coach (Miroslav) Nikokic are great teachers. They make great adjustments in games. Their teams are very disciplined and very physical. His team would be a very good college team in America. His inside players were tremendous, physical and they finished plays. They are very well coached and they did a great job moving the basketball. We are fortunate to win the game, we learned a lot in playing against Serbia and hopefully it’ll help us in the next round."

Not only did the U.S. receive great play from Curry, with the posts hampered much of the game by fouls the guards stepped it up as Jonny Flynn (Niagara Falls H.S. / Niagara Falls, N.Y.) scored 12 points, Patrick Beverley (Arkansas / Chicago, Ill.) had 11 and a team-best nine boards, while David Lighty (Ohio State / Cleveland, Ohio) added 10 points in the win.

Looking at an even game (75-75) with less than two minutes to play, Curry drained a 3-pointer to put the U.S. up 78-75. After a Serbian free throw Curry drove the lane, but his shot was off and with the rebound up for grabs Matt Bouldin (Gonzaga / Highlands Ranch, Colo.) grabbed after it was bobbled around and connected on a jumper with under a minute to play.

Serbia, which had only committed one foul in the fourth quarter, took a time out and started fouling to keep the Americans from scoring. On the inbounds pass following the third foul Stefan Markovic read the play perfectly, stole the ball and sprinted up the court for a layup with 35 seconds remaining.

With time running off the shot clock, Beverly had no choice but to put up a basket and his floater beat the

24-second buzzer, essentially putting the nail in the coffin with only 10.1 ticks remaining. Serbia attempted a three, but Beverly was there for the board to seal the win.

"This was a great game for both us and the Serbian team," said Curry. "I really enjoyed playing in this game. I think this is what the (U19) World Championship is all about, close games going down to the end. We had to make great plays going down the stretch to win this game. I give credit to Serbia for making a great run at the end of the game and playing great team ball. We had a great combo of me and Patrick Beverly hitting big shots down the stretch. The rest of our team is also great with helping us playing defense, we got some stops near the end and then when Patrick hit that big shot with a couple seconds on the shot clock, it really sealed the deal. I enjoyed playing this game and I look forward to playing the next round and moving on to the next competition coming up.

The USA headed into the fourth quarter with a 64-50 cushion and the crowd temporarily out of the action. However, DeAndre Jordan (Bellaire Episcopal H.S. / Humble, Texas) already had four fouls, while Bouldin, Flynn, Raymar Morgan (Michigan State / Canton, Ohio), Deon Thompson (North Carolina / Torrance, Calif.) and Michael Beasley (Notre Dame Prep, Mass./ Frederick, Md.) had each been whistled for three infractions by that time.

Serbia pounded it inside to start the fourth quarter and the host country’s strategy worked. By the 8:41 mark Beasley and Thompson picked up their fourth and the USA’s lead had diminished to 66-55. After that, it was easy money for Serbia, which knew the United States couldn’t afford the least amount of contact so Milan Macvan and Miroslav Raduljica took turns going inside for uncontested layups and with six minutes to play the gap was narrowed to 70-65.

Not only had Serbia gotten back into the game, so did the crowd.

With the U.S. struggling to get off a good shot, Serbia inched ever closer, even knotting the game at 70-apiece, and at 3:24, after Morgan picked up his fourth foul, the USA was up by two, 73-71 with 3:24 remaining and by the 1:58 mark it was tied again at 75-75.

The United States got off to a rough start against its hosts. After shooting 36.8 percent (14-38 3pt FGs) from beyond the arc in its first two contests, the U.S. went 1-of-7 in the first 10 minutes of the game. The squad also sent Serbia to the line for 11 tries after committing nine fouls and by the first quarter break the USA trailed 18-13. At halftime the USA had taken a slim lead, 39-37. Coming out strong in the third quarter, the Americans outscored the Serbs 25-13.

In other preliminary round play Australia (3-0) beat Canada (1-2) 81-70, Brazil (2-1) downed Lithuania (1-2) 81-75, France (3-0) leveled Lebanon (0-3) 100-58, China (1-2) won against Mali (0-3) 59-46, Turkey (2-1) took care of business against Nigeria (0-3) 91-82, Spain (3-0) conquered Korea (1-2) 97-80, while Argentina (2-1) put away Puerto Rico (0-3) 112-72.

The top three teams from each of the four preliminary round groups advance to the July 16-18 second round. The top three teams from Groups A and B (Brazil, China, France, Lithuania, Serbia, United States) will compete in round-robin play in second round Group E; while the top three teams from Groups C and D (Argentina, Australia, Canada, Spain, South Korea, Turkey) will play each other in Group F. The preliminary round results carry over to the second round standings, and teams will only face advancing squads from the opposite group in second round action. Quarterfinals will be contested on July 20, the semifinals on July 21 and the gold medal tilt is slated for July 22.

Wainwright, who served as an assistant for the 2006 USA U18 National Team, is heading up the 2007 USA U19 World Championship Team coaching staff, and collegiate head coaches Bruiser Flint of Drexel University (Pa.) and George Washington University’s (D.C.) Karl Hobbs are serving as assistant coaches.