Two players John Calipari will coach in Lexington this season helped the United States’ U19 World Cup team to a victory in a friendly against Lithuania on Wednesday.
University of Kentucky signee PJ Washington scored a team-high 18 points, and UK player Hamidou Diallo added 17 in Team USA’s 89-66 victory in a game that tipped off about 24 hours after the team made its 6,900-mile trip to Cairo, Egypt.
“It felt good to get out there and get back on my feet after the flights. I feel like we played well, but there are a bunch of things that we can get better at,” said the 6-foot-5 Diallo. “I think I played well, but I’ve got to get better on a bunch of things, I’m still a little rusty.”
Any jet lag the team might have been dealing with was gone by the third quarter. The U.S. outscored Lithuania 40-19 in the third and fourth quarters.
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“We were a little sluggish in the first half, and I thought in the second half our pressure and our athleticism kind of wore them down,” said Calipari, coach of the U.S. team and Kentucky. “But, our execution is not great. Our biggest issue right now is defensively we don’t talk enough, and they haven’t been together long enough to really know how we wanted to play. I’ve got 10 days to get these guys talking more, playing off one another more. I’m happy we’re doing a couple scrimmages, so we understand how it is.”
Team USA will play medal favorite France in another friendly on Thursday. The FIBA U19 World Cup runs from July 1-9.
The United States will open preliminary-round action against Iran on Saturday (11:30 a.m. EDT), followed by games against Angola on Sunday (12:15 p.m. EDT) and Italy on Tuesday (10:30 a.m. EDT).
After the preliminary round, all 16 teams will be seeded according to group play results. Winners in the round of 16 will advance to the July 7 medal quarterfinals, while the remaining teams will continue playing out for classification. The medal semifinals will be July 8, and the gold and bronze medal games are slated for July 9.