Sulaimon wins gold at U19 World Championships
Duke sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half and the U.S. beat Serbia 82-68 to win the FIBA U19 World Championship Sunday in Prague, Czech Republic.
Louisville sophomore and Tarboro native Montrezl Harris had a team-high 17 points as the U.S. outscored Serbia 42-30 in the second half to win the gold medal in the event for the third time in the last eight U19 championships, dating back to 1987.
“It’s just a tremendous feeling,” Sulaimon said. “Since (training camp in) Colorado Springs we’ve been working hard to achieve this goal and now that we finally got it – all the hard work that we put in, all the focus, the sacrifice that each and every one of us made – it’s just a thrilling feeling. I’m just so glad that we can take the gold back home to the USA.”
Sulaimon started alongside Harrell, Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State, Jarnell Stokes of Tennessee and Elfrid Payton of Louisiana-Lafayette. The team was coached by Florida’s Billy Donovan.
Aaron Gordon, who averaged USA highs of 12.6 points and 6.2 rebounds a game while shooting 61.2 percent from the field, was selected MVP of the U19 World Championship.
The game remained up for grabs at 48-47 in favor of the Americans with 4:28 left in the third quarter. Nigel Williams-Goss connected on a 3-pointer, then the U.S. press forced Serbia into a turnover that resulted in a steal by Gordon, who fed Sulaimon for a score. Smart tipped one in at the rim and just like that the USA lead had ballooned to 55-47.
Leading 57-51 going into the final 10 minutes, Serbia scored first to cut the lead to four at 57-53, but that was as close as it would get as the U.S. countered with seven consecutive points and a 13-1 overall run that left it in front 70-54 with 7:01 to play.
Serbia shot 59.1 percent from the field over the first two quarters and the U.S. was only able to force six turnovers. The second half was a different story. Cranking up its defensive intensity, the USA limited Serbia to 34.6 percent shooting in the third and fourth quarters and chased them into 11 turnovers.
“Serbia is a great team and they run their stuff very well and they make you pay,” Smart said. “They have a lot of great shooters so it is kind of hard, you have to guard the 3-point line and protect the basket.
“We knew that they were going to get worn down and that was our goal, just keep bringing the pressure, a hundred times more in the second half and eventually they were going to wear down.”
In finals play Sunday, Lithuania overcame Australia in overtime 106-100 to claim the bronze medal, Spain got the better of Canada 72-68 to capture fifth place, and China beat Croatia 94-80 to take seventh place.