Coach John Calipari’s United States basketball team might return from the FIBA U19 World Cup with a medal, but it won’t be gold.
Canada, led by 38 points and 13 rebounds from 17-year-old sensation R.J. Barrett, stunned the tournament favorites 99-87 in Saturday’s tournament semifinals in Cairo, Egypt.
Canada moves on to its first-ever appearance in the U19 gold medal game on Sunday in which it will play Italy. Team USA will meet Spain for the bronze medal.
Saturday marked the United States’ first defeat in U19 World Cup play since 2011. The Americans won the World Cup in both 2013 and 2015.
“We got 30 offensive rebounds. We scored enough points to win,” Calipari said afterward. “But then it came down to some breakdowns defensively, and the other thing was, R.J. (Barrett) had it going.”
Barrett, the No. 1-ranked prospect in the 2019 recruiting class and holding a scholarship offer from Kentucky’s Calipari, scored 25 points in the first half to power the Canadians to a 45-42 halftime lead. The United States briefly pushed ahead 53-52 midway through the third quarter, but Canada stiffened.
A three-pointer by Barrett from the top of the key gave Canada its largest lead of the game to that point at 66-57 with 15 seconds left in the third.
“I told the team after the game, I needed to try some different things — go zone, trap pick and roll, trap him,” Calipari said. “I kind of rode it because I thought we would figure out something, and that is my mistake. That’s not these kids’ mistake.”
The cold-shooting U.S. had little success chipping away at the deficit in the fourth quarter. Canada led 89-78 when Barrett fouled out with 2:55 remaining and held on from there. Canada’s players celebrated wildly at midcourt after the win, which ESPN’s commentator called one of the greatest in Canadian basketball history.
“They beat us to some balls at the end, some free throw misses that we needed to get our hands on,” Calipari said. “We could have come down and made a three, and now it’s a three-point game with 28 seconds to go. Anything can happen. But, the reality was, one kid really went crazy, and then the rest of their kids did what they did, so hats off to them. Congratulate Canada, they deserved to win the game.”
Kentucky freshmen PJ Washington and Hamidou Diallo scored 17 and eight points, respectively, for Team USA. Washington added 11 rebounds.
“As a team today, we were off,” Washington said. “Everybody was against us. I feel like we could have done better, but I think we will bounce back tomorrow and we’ll be all right.”
The United States made just 28 of 85 attempts from the field (32.9 percent), including 6-for-23 from three-point range. Things were not much better at the foul line, where the USA went 25-for-43 (58.1 percent).
Diallo shot 2-for-11 from the field and Washington was 4-for-14. The two combined to miss 11 free throws.
Diallo played little in the second half, picking up his fourth foul with 7:05 remaining in the third quarter.
“(Barrett) had a great game, but I thought it was about foul trouble for us,” Washington said. “We were switching the screens and getting easy, ticky-tack fouls, and those just kept adding up for us.”
The 6-foot-7 Barrett led Canada in scoring (19.0 ppg) entering Saturday’s game and was also averaging a robust 6.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists. It’s possible he could reclassify to the class of 2018.
The U19 World Cup was first staged in 1979 in Brazil and was held every four years. Since 2009, the event has been played every two years. The United States has won six of the 12 gold medals, including the past two. The U.S. also has three silver medals. No other country has won more than one gold medal, those being Serbia, Greece, Lithuania, Australia, Spain and the country formerly known as Yugoslavia.
“What an incredible moment for Canadian basketball, for these kids, for this team,” Canada Coach Roy Rana said. “Great win, now we’ve got to move on and get ready to play for — as unbelievable as it sounds — a world championship.”
For the U.S., it’s on to a bronze medal game it probably never considered a possibility.
“It’s going to be a hard one, as a staff and all of us,” Calipari said. “You move on to the next one. In this kind of environment, you don’t even get a day to grieve. You just have to move on. So, we’ll go back and see if we can get something going.”
Double-double for Wynyard
Kentucky’s Tai Wynyard continued play Saturday in the consolation bracket of the World Cup.
His New Zealand squad lost to Puerto Rico 74-70 on Saturday morning.
Going into the game, Wynyard had started all five games, averaging 13.6 points and 8.4 rebounds.
On Saturday, he contributed 15 points and 13 rebounds.
FIBA U19 World Cup
What: Sixteen-country basketball tournament
When: Through Sunday
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 117, Mali 69
July 6: Off
July 7: USA 81, Germany 59
July 8: Canada 99, USA 87
July 9: Bronze medal game: USA vs. Spain, Noon
Saturday’s semifinals schedule
(All times EDT)
Italy 66, Spain 63
Canada 99, USA 87
Sunday’s finals schedule
(All times EDT)
Bronze medal game: USA vs. Spain, Noon
Gold medal game: Italy vs. Canada, 2:30 p.m.