Behind 18 points from Tyshawn Taylor , the former St. Anthony of Jersey City star who is now at Kansas, and another balanced scoring effort that featured seven players contributing eight or more points, the USA fended off a determined Greek team to post an 88-80 victory Sunday night in the FIBA World Championship gold medal game in Auckland, New Zealand.
“It feels good,” Taylor said. “We put in a lot of hard work. We’ve been together for like three weeks, three-and-a-half weeks now and going real hard. We had two a days back in Colorado at training camp so we’ve been going real hard and all that hard work paid off so everybody is excited and happy.
The USA squad, led by University of Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon, finished with a spotless 9-0 record and recorded a 22.2 margin of victory in the championship.
The USA, medal winners now in seven of the nine FIBA U19 World Championships, hadn’t won the tournament since finishing 8-0 in 1991, capturing seventh (4-4) in 1995, silver (7-1) in 1999, fifth in 2003 and silver in 2007 in Novi Sad, Serbia.
A panel of accredited media representatives covering the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championship selected the MVP and the All-Star Five of the Tournament. The All-Star Five of the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championship featured Taylor and Gordon Hayward (Butler / Brownsburg, Ind.) of the USA, Toni Prostran (Croatia), Nikos Pappas (Greece), and Mario Delas (Croatia), who was also selected MVP of the championship.
Neither team led by more than two points in the first quarter as the first 10 minutes played out even at 19-19.
The USA opened some breathing room after running off a 16-1 offensive onslaught over the course of the second quarter’s first five minutes. Ashton Gibbs (Pittsburgh / Scotch Plains, N.J.) started the run and accounted for six of the team’s first eight points in the spurt, then Terrico White (Mississippi / Memphis, Tenn.) finished it off with a fastbreak basket and a 3-pointer that left the USA holding a 35-20 lead with 5:07 to play before half.
Arnett Moultire (UTEP / Memphis, Tenn.), four points, and Taylor, seven points, accounted for all of the USA points over the remainder of the quarter and the red, white and blue headed to the locker room at halftime leading 46-30.
Greece, which made just 7-of 27 shots(.259 percent) in the first half and made only two field goals in the second quarter, managed to keep within striking range thanks to 14-of-16 shooting (6-of-8 in the second quarter) from the foul line.
With the U.S. leading 50-34 with 7:13 to play in the third quarter, Greece ripped off eight straight points and the once comfortable USA lead was down to 50-42 with 5:38 still left in the third stanza.
John Shurna (Northwestern / Glen Ellyn, Ill.) connected on the second of two free throws to halt the run and White added a jumper to push the U.S. back ahead 53-42. Greece scored six straight to make the score 53-48, but thanks to 7-of-8 clutch free throw shooting in the third quarter’s final 2:24, the USA lead was back to nine, 60-51, at the end of the third period.
The U.S. opened the final quarter with five points, the last two coming off of a Darius Miller (Kentucky / Lexington, Ky.) steal, and a Moultrie slam off the feed from Taylor, and had pushed its led to 65-51. Greece nailed back to back 3-pointers to reduce the American advantage to 65-57 with 7:52 to play, but Gibbs made a pair of free throws and Klay Thompson (Washington State / Ladera Ranch, Calif.) dropped a three to re-up the USA lead to 70-57.
Although Greece would not go away, they never again got closer than eight points.
In a foul heavy contest, Greece shot 26-of-36 from the charity stripe, while the USA, after making 8-of-8 free throws in the final 1:22, was 26-of-32 from the line. The USA hit 28 of its 57 shots, including 6-15 from 3-point. The American defense forced Greece into 41.4 percent shooting overall.
Taylor added six assists and five steals to his 18 points, Gibbs recorded 13 points, Thompson tossed in 10 points and swatted three shots, and Moultrie finished with 10 points while grabbing a team best nine rebounds. White and Seth Curry (Duke / Charlotte, N.C.) contributed nine points each, and Miller was credited with eight points.
Dixon was assisted on the USA sidelines by collegiate head coaches Chris Lowery of Southern Illinois University and Matt Painter of Purdue University.In other finals play Sunday, Croatia (7-2) bounced back from its disappointing semifinals loss to the U.S. and held off Australia (7-2) 87-81 in the bronze medal thriller; Argentina (5-4) slammed Puerto Rico (5-4) 92-70 to claim fifth place; and Canada (4-5) put down France (3-6) 84-72 to capture seventh place. Follow Adam Zagoria on Twitter. (Story, photo courtesy FIBA)