The United States men’s basketball squad was an overwhelming favorite to win the gold medal at the Rio Olympics, but the path wasn’t always smooth.
That made Sunday’s 96-66 rout of Serbia all the more special, former University of Kentucky star DeMarcus Cousins said.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” he said. “It’s all worth it in the end. All the B.S., everything we went through, everybody kind of went through their own type of adversity. We all overcame it. This is the best feeling ever. Honestly, it’s the best feeling ever.”
Cousins scored 13 points and grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds in the Americans’ victory.
He was 3-for-5 from the field and 7-for-9 at the line. Six of his rebounds came on the offensive end, and he also had two assists and two steals.
“We were a confident group,” Cousins said. “We had some rough patches in the beginning of the tournament. We overcame it. We corrected our mistakes. We bettered ourselves from our mistakes. We came together as a team.”
Kevin Durant was the Americans’ leading scorer with 30 points. He was 5-for-11 from three-point range.
Carmelo Anthony also picked up his third gold to go with a bronze, becoming the most decorated male in Olympic basketball history.
“As much negativity as that guy gets, he doesn’t deserve it,” Cousins said. “He’s an incredible person, he’s an incredible leader. He speaks for himself. It shows his commitment, it shows his dedication to his craft, to his organization, to this organization. He’s a great guy. Great guy.”
Serbia lost only 94-91 to the U.S. during pool play but was barely in the game again after a close first quarter.
“It was the best thing that happened for us,” Cousins said of being tested by Serbia during group play. “It let us know that we had to take it to another level, because it’s not going to be just a walk in the park. If anything, that was the best thing for us.”
Cousins’ GM with the Sacramento Kings is former Serbia and NBA star Vlade Divac.
“He talked trash to me after the first game,” Cousins told the Boston Globe. “He was real quiet today.”
Cousins finished up his first Olympics averaging 9.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. He shot 27-for-44 (61.4 percent) from the field.
He spent much of it in foul trouble.
“It was tough,” Cousins said. “I think individually everybody hit some type of adversity. We found a way to overcome it. That’s what it’s about. Winning is not easy. We found a way to do it and now we can celebrate as a team.”
It’s the third straight Olympics that a former UK player has won gold — Anthony Davis played for the Americans in 2012, and Tayshaun Prince was on the 2008 squad.
“Congratulations to USA Basketball on another gold medal and to our own DeMarcus Cousins,” Coach John Calipari said in a statement released by UK. “DeMarcus continues to get better and better and has become one of the best big men in our game. I know how badly he wanted this opportunity and this gold medal. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
▪ Pau Gasol scored 31 points in Spain’s 89-88 victory over Australia in the bronze medal game. The Spaniards prevailed when Sergio Rodriguez made two free throws with 5.4 seconds left. Spain, which lost to the United States in the semifinals, had won silver in 2008 at Beijing and 2012 in London.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
United States 96, Serbia 66
United States (96) — J. Butler 1-3 0-0 2, K. Durant 10-19 5-6 30, D. Jordan 2-3 0-1 4, K. Lowry 2-5 0-0 5, H. Barnes 1-2 0-0 2, D. DeRozan 3-4 0-0 6, K. Irving 1-6 2-2 4, K. Thompson 5-11 0-0 12, D. Cousins 3-5 7-9 13, P. George 2-9 4-4 9, D. Green 1-3 0-0 2, C. Anthony 3-7 0-1 7. Totals 34-77 18-23 96.
Serbia (66) — M. Teodosic 4-11 1-2 9, M. Simonovic 1-5 0-0 3, B. Bogdanovic 2-12 3-3 7, S. Markovic 1-6 0-0 3, N. Kalinic 1-2 0-0 2, N. Nedovic 6-10 1-1 14, S. Bircevic 0-0 1-2 1, M. Raduljica 3-6 1-2 7, N. Jokic 3-5 0-0 6, V. Stimac 0-1 0-0 0, S. Jovic 1-4 1-2 3, M. Macvan 4-6 2-2 11. Totals 26-68 10-14 66.