July 11, 1999
From Release on USABasketball.com.
INCA, Spain – Just as termites, ill-tempered relatives and neighbors’ errant baseballs are unwelcome house guests, so was the 1999 USA Basketball Men’s World University Games Team (7-0) Sunday night as it claimed an impressive 88-80 victory against host Spain (6-1) here in a game that was closer than the final score indicated in the medal round semifinals at the ’99 Games here Sunday night in front of a rambunctious and emotional Spanish crowd and an equally persistent Spanish team.
The win lifts the U.S. into the Games’ gold medal contest Monday at 8:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m. EDT) at Son Moix Stadium in Palma de Mallorca, Spain against undefeated Yugoslavia (6-0), which stopped Mexico 85-60 in the other World University Games semifinal on Sunday night. Yugoslavia is the last team to defeat the United States at the World University Games, having posted a 100-85 victory against the Americans in the 1987 gold medal game. Since that time, the U.S. has won five consecutive gold medals and 39 straight contests at the World University Games. However, the USA has defeated three previously unbeaten teams at this year’s Games and will attempt to make Yugoslavia its fourth such foe on Monday.
“We’re away from home, we can’t get much farther away from home than this, playing Spain on its home floor. The crowd was local, it was kind of an us against them mentality. You can kind of get the feeling that every call goes against you. Our guys hung in there in a nip-and-tuck ballgame down the stretch in a game of runs. I thought our guys were real warriors and that’s why we came out on top,” said USA head coach Oliver Purnell of the University of Dayton (Ohio). “We got out of focus and lost our poise a couple of times but we brought it back together. We’re a resilient team and the ability to get it back together under adverse conditions is a real special thing.”
Forward Kenyon Martin (Cincinnati / Dallas, Texas) led the USA in scoring for the second straight game with his stellar 22 point, game high 11 rebound, 8- of-14 field goal shooting effort. Erick Barkley (St. John’s / Brooklyn, N.Y.), starting in place of Scoonie Penn (Ohio State / Salem, Mass.) who missed the game with a stomach illness, totaled 19 points, six rebounds, and two steals. Michael Redd (Ohio State / Columbus, Ohio) tallied 16 points (6-11 FGs) off the bench, and Pete Mickeal (Cincinnati / Rock Island, Ill.) checked in with 11 points, seven rebounds and a game high three steals.
“It felt just like when (St. John’s) played against Ohio State in the (NCAA) Tournament again. It was very intense with the crowd. Obviously, we weren’t the favorite so we had to come out and take the crowd away and play with dignity,” Barkley said. “We really came together with this game and we’re going to try to feed off the energy for tomorrow.”
With 1:29 to play, Martin converted a three point play to help the Americans enjoy an 82-75 lead. However, Spain quickly drained a three pointer and, on its next possesion, hit a layup and the score stood at 82- 80 with 40 seconds remaining. In the game’s last 19.4 seconds, though, Barkley hit all four of his free throw attempts and Martin added a pair of charity tries to secure the final eight point margin of victory.
The first half saw the USA assume its first lead, 6-5, when Brendan Haywood (North Carolina / Greensboro, N.C.) scored with 14:41 to play. From that point, the U.S. never again trailed although the game was tied once more, 66-66, with 6:10 to play in the game.
The Americans could never shake their Spanish opponents. After assembling a 66-60 lead with 9:17 to play, Spain charged back with a 6-0 run over the ensuing 3:07 that knotted the score. The USA also raced to a 37-29 lead with 3:12 to play in the first half but saw Spain close the first stanza with a 6-2 run to pull to within seven points, 40-33, at halftime.
“This was a huge win for us. To be in a hostile environment and stick together the way we did shows team chemistry, and we came together tonight,” Redd said. “It was different because it was the United States against Spain. Two countries against one another is bigger than the Big Ten. We have this USA jersey on and we have to represent ourselves the best we can.”
Sunday’s win marks the third consecutive World University Games in which the USA has had to defeat the host nation in order to win the gold medal. In 1997, the USA defeated Italy 67-51 in the medal round semifinals in Palermo, Italy; and in 1995, the Americans dispatched Japan 141-81 in the gold medal game in Fukuoka, Japan. Additionally, the USA is guaranteed of its 16th medal in as many World University Games appearances. The U.S. has finished either first or second at each of the past seven World University Games.