Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Marcus Smart and his USA U19 teammates know that the Americans haven’t dominated the FIBA World Championship in that age category.
The U.S. has only won the U19s once since 1995 — in 2009 — and Smart is out to alter history.
“This team right here is looking to change that and making a trend of going over there and dominating the 19-and-under,” the Oklahoma State sophomore point guard told SNY.tv recently.
On Saturday, Smart had 18 points and three assists in 18 minutes to pace five players in double digits as the USA crushed Lithuania, 100-60, in the semifinals and remained the only unbeaten team in the competition.
The USA advanced to the gold medal game Sunday against Serbia.
Forward Justise Winslow, one of two high school players on the roster, added 15 points and nine rebounds while Arizona’s Aaron Gordon chipped in with 14 points.
“I thought it (the USA’s focus and intensity) was really good,” said USA and University of Florida head coach Billy Donovan. “This was a game where our guys came out and really from start to finish played really, really good basketball and I was proud of them tonight.
“We gave ourselves an opportunity to play for the gold medal, that was the goal and now we’ll have a great challenge against a Serbia team that obviously we played in an incredibly hard-played game a couple of days ago.”
The USA, who entered this game having handed Serbia their only defeat of the tournament – in the Eighth-Final Round – jumped ahead in the first quarter with a 10-0 run for a 17-5 lead. The advantage grew to 14 points and the Americans led 25-16 after one quarter.
After falling behind by 16 points, Lithuania fought back to within 37-24 before Team USA closed the half on a 10-2 surge for a 47-26 cushion.
Lithuania tried to claw their way back into the game but could only pull within 58-41 after which the Americans went on a 10-0 run and closed the third period up 72-44.
However, they would not get any closer the rest of the way and Team USA increased the lead to 44 points in the final period.
Tomas Dimsa and Donatas Tarolis paced the Lithuanians with nine points each.
Lithuania will face Australia in the Bronze Medal Game.
(FIBA contributed reporting and photo)
**For more coverage of the USA U19 and U16 teams, click here.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.