Incoming University of Kentucky freshman PJ Washington scored 20 points Tuesday as Team USA defeated Italy 98-65 in the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in Cairo, Egypt.
“I was just trying to get to the rack, just trying to be aggressive, just playing my game and I felt like it was working for me tonight,” said Washington, who leads the U.S. in scoring with 14.7 points per game to go with 5.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
All 16 teams in the World Cup advance to the single-elimination round of 16 beginning Wednesday. Group play was used to establish seeding.
The United States will take on Mali, the last-place finisher in Group C, on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. EDT.
Washington scored his points in 16 minutes of action, making eight of his nine field goal attempts. He also had four rebounds and two steals.
“PJ’s a beast and I don’t know how you guard him,” Calipari said. “If he gets an angle by you, he’s tough to stop. And he made his free throws today. He’s playing the way we need him to play.”
An early 10-0 run gave Italy a 15-13 lead, the first time the U.S. had trailed in any of its preliminary round games.
“We haven’t had a close game before,” Washington said. “We just started playing with each other two weeks ago and I feel like it built some chemistry with us and we are just going to play harder next game.”
Kentucky recruiting target Cameron Reddish (15 points) and UNLV’s Brandon McCoy (13) were the only other USA players to score in double figures Tuesday.
“We want to come out and we want to play our hearts out and we want to leave with the gold,” McCoy said. “I just think we need to both focus and buckle down, and listen to what Coach Cal has to say and just play hard.”
UK freshman Hamidou Diallo struggled to find his shot and finished with five points, by far his lowest output of the tournament. Diallo was 2-for-9 from the field but contributed four rebounds and three assists.
▪ UK sophomore Tai Wynyard was also is in action on the Fourth of July. Wynyard’s New Zealand squad (1-2) lost 74-70 to Argentina (2-1).
Wynyard had three points, nine rebounds and a team-high three blocks. He has averaged 12.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 3.3 blocks so far.
FIBA U19 World Cup
What: Sixteen-country basketball tournament
When: Saturday through July 9
Where: Cairo, Egypt
Team USA schedule
All times EDT
July 1: USA 108, Iran 48
July 2: USA 109, Angola 68
July 3: Off
July 4: USA 98, Italy 65
July 5: USA vs. Mali, 9:30 a.m. EDT
July 6: Off
July 7: Quarterfinals (Times TBA)
July 8: Semifinals (Times TBA)
July 9: Gold medal game, 12:30 p.m.; Bronze medal game, 10 a.m.
Wednesday’s round-of-16 schedule
Teams listed in bracketed order with group-play records
(All times EDT)
France (3-0) vs. Puerto Rico (0-3), 12:15 p.m.
Canada (2-1) vs. Angola (1-2), 7:15 a.m.
New Zealand (1-2) vs. Germany (2-1), 2 p.m.
Mali (0-3) vs. United States (3-0), 9:30 a.m.
Argentina (2-1) vs. Egypt (1-2), 2:30 p.m.
Spain (3-0) vs. Iran (0-3), 10 a.m.
South Korea (0-3) vs. Lithuania (3-0), 11:45 a.m.
Japan (1-2) vs. Italy (2-1), 7:45 a.m.
4 Payton Pritchard, 6-2, G (Oregon)
5 Immanuel Quickley, 6-3, G (High school)
6 Carsen Edwards, 6-0, G (Purdue)
7 Cameron Reddish, 6-7, G (High school)
8 Hamidou Diallo, 6-5, G (Kentucky)
9 Josh Okogie, 6-4, G (Georgia Tech)
10 Kevin Huerter, 6-6, F (Maryland)
11 Louis King, 6-8, F (High school)
12 Austin Wiley, 6-9, C (Auburn)
13 Romeo Langford, 6-6, G (High school)
14 PJ Washington, 6-8, F (Kentucky)
15 Brandon McCoy, 6-11, F/C (UNLV)