July 3, 2013
Serbia gave the USA Basketball Men's Junior National Team all it wanted Wednesday at 2013 FIBA U19 World Championships, as the U.S. had to scratch and claw its way to a 71-62 triumph at O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic.
The U.S. came into Wednesday's game carrying an intimidating 50.2-point margin of victory, defeating Ivory Coast, China, Russia, Brazil and Australia with relative ease.
Serbia and point guard Vasilije Micic - who finished with a game-high 24 points - refused to back down.
Tennessee rising junior Jarnell Stokes was held scoreless for the first time this summer, but he did manage five rebounds (four offensive) and a steal in the winning effort.
The Memphis, Tenn., native is averaging 7.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.0 steal while playing just 12.7 minutes per game at the championship.
Team USA (6-0) now gets to rest on its Independence Day. Quarterfinal play begins Friday, with semifinals on Saturday and the gold-medal game Sunday. Free live stats for every game at the U19 championship are available at: www.prague2013.fiba.com
Serbia on Wednesday provided the toughest for the Americans thus far at the championship. The Serbs entered the day allowing just 50.4 points per game, and they led for a portion of the first quarter.
But the U.S. - with several of its key contributors battling foul trouble - had taken a 19-15 edge by the end of the first stanza and had a 35-26 lead at halftime. Team captain Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State had three fouls in the first half.
Through Team USA's first five games in Prague, its success has hinged on its pressure defense and frontcourt dominance. And Wednesday vs. Serbia, the U.S. had attempted just one 3-point shot through the first 30 minutes of play. And the Americans ended the day with only two attempts from beyond the arc.
Thanks in part to stellar play from Micic, Serbia made it a three-point game with less than two minutes to play in the third quarter. The Serbs actually outscored the U.S. 21-15 in the third.
The Americans never surrendered their lead in the second half, but the outcome was in question until the closing minutes.
Beginning with Friday's quarterfinals, all remaining games at the championship will be available via live web stream, for a fee, at www.livebasketball.tv