USA National Team Celebrates Independence Day with Victory in World University Games
GWANGJU, Korea – Kansas men’s basketball, representing the USA National Team, gave its home country a little more to celebrate on Independence Day by defeating Turkey 66-57 in the opening round of the 2015 World University Games at Dongkang Gymnasium in Gwangju, Korea.
Behind 19 points from Wayne Selden, Jr., the USA Team (1-0) used a 12-2 run to open the second half and overcome a 36-32 deficit en route to the victory in Pool D play. The USA Team was powered by a 10-player rotation that eventually wore the Turkey squad down.
“We didn’t play very good individually but we did defend really well the last 45 minutes as a team,” USA head coach Bill Self said. “I think that was a difference and I also think conditioning was a difference. They were so much better than us early on. From the 15-minute mark on, I felt like if we could push the pace, that eventually they would wear down. They got tired.”
Selden led all scorers, just missing a double-double with nine rebounds, which also led both teams for the game. Forward Perry Ellis scored 17 points and pulled down six rebounds, while guard Frank Mason III added 12 points and four assists. Guard Nic Moore had nine points, which included two three-pointers. Turkey (0-1) was led by Muhammed Senli who scored 18 points, including 15 in the first half before being limited due to an injury.
“We wanted to try and get out and run as much as we could,” Ellis said. “They slowed us down a little bit, but we still grinded the game out and won. That’s all that counts.”
The USA squad scored the first five points of the contest on an Ellis three and a lay-in from forward Jamari Traylor, but that did not phase the Turkey squad as they scored the next 12 points to take a 12-5 lead. Included was two of Turkey’s four three-pointers in the first period alone. Two Mason buckets cut the lead to 19-11 with just over two minutes in the opening period.
“The competition was high level against a team we’re not familiar with,” Moore said. “But we stuck it out and played all four quarters.”
Trailing 21-12 heading into the second quarter, Moore capped a 7-0 USA run by draining a three-pointer from the corner. A minute later, the USA would tie the game at 23-23 on a Hunter Mickelson follow. Turkey then made two threes to build back a six-point cushion at 29-23 with 3:55 before half. Ellis would later get a steal and basket to cut the lead to one at 33-32, yet Sertac Sanli drained a three with seven seconds to give Turkey a 36-32 edge at intermission.
After its 12-2 run to open the second half, the USA Team led 39-38 and never gave the lead back to Turkey. Selden ended the third quarter with an alley-oop dunk from Moore to give the USA Team a 54-47 lead heading into the fourth stanza. Out of the break, Selden then recorded a traditional three-point play off an offensive rebound and put back to give USA its largest lead of the game at 57-47 with 8:54 to play in the contest.
Turkey was able to cut the lead to four at 61-57 with just over four minutes left, but forward Landen Lucas followed an Ellis miss with a lay-in and Mason iced the game with one of his signature driving layups and a free throw as the Rock Chalk Chant started by the couple hundred KU faithful in attendance with just over 30 seconds remaining.
The USA team will return to Dongkang College Gymnasium for its second game in as many days when it plays Brazil, a Pool D contender. Tip is set for 8:30 p.m. local which is 6:30 a.m. in Kansas. The game will be televised on ESPNU and the Watch ESPN app.
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