USA Going for Gold at World University Games
GWANGJU, Korea – Guard Wayne Selden, Jr., scored 22 points and his last seven came at the most crucial juncture in USA’s 78-68 win against Russia in the semifinals of the 2015 World University Games at Dongkang College Gymnasium Sunday.
With the win, the USA (7-0), made up mainly of University of Kansas student-athletes and staff, will play Germany (6-0) for the gold medal on Monday, July 13, at 9 p.m. local, which is 7 a.m. in Kansas, at Yeomju Indoor Gymnasium in Gwangju. Germany defeated Brazil, 59-49, in the semifinal contest just prior to the USA-Russia matchup.
Having won an all-time most 19 medals (13 gold, three silver and three bronze), the USA is looking for its first medal in the last three World University Games (WUG). USA finished ninth in the 2013 WUG and fifth in 2011. The last medal won by the American men’s basketball team was bronze in 2009. The previous USA medal was gold in 2005.
With the USA up 12 at 61-49, Russia went on a 13-0 run to take a 62-61 lead with 6:40 to play. Included was a half court three-pointer by Ivan Strebkov as time expired, giving the Russians momentum heading into the final period. Russia would score the first six points of the fourth quarter to take the 62-61 lead, then Selden took over. The Roxbury, Massachusetts, native first made a three-pointer over Russian 7-3 center Andrei Desiatnikov to give lead back to the Americans. Selden then made a layup on a fast break to put USA up four and regain the mojo.
“That’s something we’ve done the whole tournament, even against Canada,” Self said. “We get behind and our guys don’t panic. Certainly, when we got up by 10 and they (Russia) came back to take the lead, they had all the momentum and had some things go right to get back in the game. Then we locked in. Their ball movement wasn’t as good and they didn’t drive, pitch and create as many open looks as they did early, but we guarded. Then we had two individuals just play great down the stretch. Perry (Ellis) and Wayne were terrific.”
Guard Nic Moore finished a 6-0 USA run with a jumper in the lane. Following a Russian basket, forward Perry Ellis did one of his patented spin moves to give the USA a 70-64 with 4:50 to play. With Desiatnikov switching to guard Selden again at the three-point line, the 6-5 guard found room on the baseline and blew past the Russian for a monster dunk and the USA never looked back.
“My teammates found me,” Selden said of his crucial run. “I had the seven-footer on me both times, and I didn’t feel like he was able to guard me. He backed off the first time so I was able to shoot it. The second time he got a little closer so I had to drive it.”
Ellis found his groove and led all scorers with 23 points to go along with four rebounds. Selden’s 22 points marked his fourth 20-point effort in the seven USA contests at the World University Games. Moore ended the night with five points and four rebounds, while point guard Frank Mason III had 10 points, six rebounds four assists and three steals. He also drew six fouls for the game. Forward Landen Lucas ended the game with seven points on 3-of-4 shooting with five rebounds and two assists. Strebkov led Russia with 20 points.
“Attacking,” Ellis said of USA’s keys to defeating Russia. “We didn’t want to settle. Coach told us to keep attacking and that’s what we did. The key for me is to not get down. To not get down when I miss shots. My teammates were encouraging me the whole game to keep going.”
Russia built a six-point lead at 13-7 with just over four minutes left in the opening quarter, which included seven points by Stanis Ilnitskiy. The USA scrapped back and cut the lead to on at 15-14 on a Mason free throw. Russia lead 18-14 at the end of the first quarter on a Ilnitskiy three-pointer with 30 seconds left in the period.
Down 23-16, the USA used hustle and went on a 22-7 run which culminated with a steal and dunk by guard Lagerald Vick who ended the game with four points. Forward Hunter Mickelson scored all five of his game points during the run including a dunk and lay-in off a Mason miss causing a Russia timeout. The Russians did not back down and closed the quarter 9-4 run to give the Americans a 42-39 lead at halftime. Ellis kept Russia at bay down the stretch by scoring four of his 14 halftime points on turnaround baskets in the final minute of the half.
“If you’re in the game, you gotta win it,” Self said of playing for the gold medal. “It’ll be a great game for our players. I think before the trip if you would’ve asked me, ‘Hey if we can get to the medal round and have a shot at playing for the bronze? It would be a great trip.’ But here we are, our guys haven’t settled for that at all. To think that the team who started the tournament down 11 or 12 to Turkey in the first quarter, scared to death, and now we’re in attack mode. It’s fun to coach kids that are in attack mode.”
Self’s attackers have now earned themselves a chance to win the World University Games for their country, something the Jayhawks are not taking lightly.
“It feels great,” Selden said of USA playing for the gold. “I’ve never had this opportunity in my life and who knows when we’ll ever get this opportunity again, so we’re really going to seize the moment.”
The USA team will play Germany Monday, July 13, at 9 p.m. local, which is 7 a.m. in Kansas at Yeomju Indoor Gymnasium. The game will be televised on ESPNU and seen on the Watch ESPN app.
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