July 7, 1999

From Release on^$

%^$PALMA DE MALLORCA, Spain – Center Chris Mihm (Texas /%^$Austin, Texas) scored a team high 15 points to pace a balanced scoring%^$attack that saw five players score in double figures as the 1999 USA%^$Basketball Men’s World University Games Team (4-0) claimed a 97-88 victory%^$over Lithuania (3-1) in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, Wednesday night in a%^$battle of two previously undefeated teams. The win lifts the U.S. into%^$sole possession of first place in Pool B, one game ahead of Lithuania and%^$Greece (3-1), which defeated South Korea 98-88 here on Wednesday.%^$

%^$The USA will close out preliminary round play on Thursday night against%^$Greece, and a U.S. win will lock the Americans into the top seed out of%^$Group B. A United States loss on Thursday, though, coupled with a victory%^$by Lithuania in its contest with Czech Republic would deadlock the USA,%^$Greece and Lithuania in a three-way tie for first place with each team%^$owning a 4-1 record. Under the rules of the International Basketball%^$Federation (FIBA), three-way ties are broken by point differential.%^$

%^$”I was pretty pleased with the win tonight. The thing that concerns me is%^$that after we got a lead, we started matching baskets with them. We had%^$maintained the defensive focus that we had in the previous ball games and%^$we put the game away with that kind of defense. Overall I was pleased. I%^$thought it was a good win. Certainly, the score was not indicative of the%^$way we controlled the game but I’d like to see us have a little more%^$stick-to-it-iveness particularly as we progress in this tournament,” said%^$USA head coach Oliver Purnell of the University of Dayton. “Greece will be%^$the most physical team we’ve faced so far. They appear to be playing well.%^$They are certainly looking to be one of the two teams out of our bracket%^$that advances to the medal round.”%^$

%^$The victory enabled the United States to take one step closer to its sixth%^$consecutive gold medal, its 12th gold medal in 16 appearances, improves its%^$all-time World University Games record to 106-6 (.946), and the U.S. has%^$now won each of its last 36 World University Games contests. Against%^$Lithuania, the USA is 2-0 all-time in the World University Games.%^$

%^$Helping key the U.S. victory Wednesday were point guards Scoonie Penn (Ohio%^$State / Salem, Mass.) and Erick Barkley (St. John’s / Brooklyn, N.Y.), who%^$combined for 21 points (9-18 FGs), eight rebounds, six assists and six%^$steals. “I like being in the backcourt with Erick,” Penn said. “Either of%^$us can get the ball, we can push it out, we can play the wing. Where it%^$really helps our team out is on defense because we can both press the ball%^$up and down. We both end up with a lot of steals. When Erick and I are%^$together, we work out well.”%^$

%^$Also scoring in double figures for the USA Basketball squad were Cory%^$Bradford (Illinois / Memphis, Tenn.) and Kevin Freeman (Connecticut /%^$Springfield, Mass.), each of whom totaled 10 points. Penn checked in with%^$11 points, and Barkley added 10. Center Brendan Haywood (North Carolina /%^$Greensboro, N.C.) continued his strong play, pulling down a team high seven%^$rebounds.%^$

%^$Bradford helped initiate the run that put the United States for good. With%^$14:18 to play in the first half, Bradford broke free for a dunk and was%^$fouled, putting the USA ahead 14-10. From that point on, the U.S. managed%^$a 15-5 run that lasted 4:01 and put the Americans ahead 27-15. On the%^$night, Bradford converted each of his first three shots and finished%^$shooting four-of-six from the floor.%^$

%^$”(The three-point) play was a huge turning point in the first half,”%^$Bradford said. “I felt it was a boost and I was just trying to get%^$everyone else into the game, which it did. They went to a zone. I don’t%^$know if they were tired or they just wanted to see if we could shoot. But%^$I tried my best to knock down some shots against their zone, and we pulled%^$them out of the zone and forced them to (play man-to-man). And that makes%^$us better offensively.”%^$

%^$A quick 12-4 spurt later in the half upped the USA advantage to 39-24 with%^$5:37 left and was capped off by a Freeman three-point play. In the second%^$half, the Americans saw their lead increase to as much as 22 points, 76-54,%^$with 12:34 to play. However, Lithuania finished the game with a 15-4 run%^$that sawed the final score to 97-88.%^$