Kansas' Taylor Leads Team USA to 76-69 Triumph over Lithuania

July 8, 2009

AUCKLAND, New Zealand Kansas sophomore Tyshawn Taylor scored 13 points and made some critical defensive stops to lead the USA Men’s U19 Team to a 76-69 win against Lithuania in the FIBA U19 World Championship play here Wednesday.

Lithuania was fighting for its medal round life against the USA squad and as the two battled for 40 minutes. Taylor, who earned his third start of the World Championships, helped the USA put away Lithuania with back-to-back baskets in the final minutes. The Jersey City, N.J., product finished the game with a team-high 13 points on 6-for-13 shooting (46 percent) to go along with four assists.

“I just wanted to be aggressive, whether it had to be scoring or looking to attack and hit one of my teammates for a layup,” Taylor said. “I had open shots so I took them and they just fell for me today. They weren’t falling the last couple of games so I’m glad they fell today.”

After a day off Thursday for all remaining teams, the USA, carrying a six-game win streak, advances to the medal round quarterfinals as the Group E No. 1 seed and will face Group F No. 4 seed Canada (3-3) on July 10 at 3:30 a.m. (CDT). Canada advanced to the medal round quarterfinals only after earning a surprise 67-57 win over Argentina Wednesday afternoon.

Other medal round quarterfinal matchups include Greece (4-2) versus Argentina (3-3) July 9 at 8:30 p.m. (CDT); France (3-3) goes against Group F No. 1 seed and undefeated Australia (6-0) July 9 at 11:00 p.m. (CDT), and Puerto Rico (4-2) takes on Croatia (5-1) July 10 at 1:15 a.m. (CDT). In the consolation quarterfinals, Lithuania (3-3) will play Kazakhstan (1-5) and Egypt (1-5) will go against Spain (3-3) July 9 at 6:15 p.m. (CDT).

“I’d probably prefer a game not so close,” admitted USA head coach Jamie Dixon.“But down the stretch we got it done and that was nice to see.

“John Shurna, Tyshawn (Taylor) and Darius (Miller) all made some big plays and that’s what you need. We’ve said all along that it was going to be different players making key contributions on different nights.”

With Lithuania knowing heading into the game that they had to win in order to move on to the medal round quarterfinals, they started quickly as shots for the U.S. didn’t fall.

With the USA making just one of their first six shots, Lithuania jumped ahead 13-7.

But behind five points from Shelvin Mack(Butler / Lexington, Ky.) the U.S. got things rolling offensively and after posting an 11-3 scoring run, the USA led 18-14.

Taking an 18-16 lead into the second stanza, the U.S., following a dunk from Gordon Hayward (Butler / Brownsburg, Ind.), went up 26-20. However, behind six consecutive points from Donatas Motiejunas Lithuania quickly cut the advantage down and the two sides traded baskets and at halftime the game was knotted at 36 all.

Lithuania scored 28 of its first half points in the paint and strengthened their first half effort with strong rebounding that saw the Europeans grab 10 offensive rebounds and out-rebounded the U.S. 26-14.

Lithuania outscored the U.S. 10-5 over the first five minutes of the third to take a 46-41 lead. But Terrico White (Georgia / Lithonia, Ga.) nailed a much needed three, and John Shurna (Northwestern / Glen Ellyn, Ill.) then added a 3-pointer and a turn-around jumper to put the Americans back up 49-46. Lithuania regained the lead 50-49 and the USA closed out the third stanza with six straight points from three different players to carry a 55-50 advantage into the fourth quarter.

Darius Miller (Kentucky / Lexington, Ky.) provided the U.S. with a much need spark early in the fourth quarter. With the USA clinging to a 59-56 lead and 9:18 left, Miller pumped in six straight points while making a momentum shifting steal and blocking a shot as the U.S. moved out to a 65-56 lead with 6:26 to be played.

“They didn’t play a lot of guys so I think they got tired so when I came in and just tried to play with a lot of energy and it just worked out for us. My teammates did a good job of getting me the ball when I was open,” said Miller. “I think we played with a lot more intensity in the second half, we came out ready to play and ready to go. They we’re playing with a lot of intensity and we had to match it in the second half to come out with the win.”

Lithuania still refused to fold and over the next 3:20 outgunned the U.S. 11-2 to tie the game 67-67 with 3:06 left in the game.

Taylor ranks third on Team USA in scoring with 9.8 points per game and is 21-for-45 (47 percent) from the field through five games of action. He has also added a team-high 19 assists, leading USA with 3.8 apg.