July 10, 1999

From Release on

CALVIA, Spain – Despite spotting Canada (3-2) a 45-33 halftime lead, the 1999 USA Basketball Men’s World University Games Team (6-0) overcame its slow start and charged back with an impressive second half effort to claim a hard-fought 87-82 victory in the quarterfinals of the ’99 World University Games Saturday night. Saturday’s victory assures the USA of no worse than a fourth place finish at the World University Games.

The win allows the U.S. to advance into the medal round semifinals against Spain (6-0) at 8 p.m. (2 p.m. EDT) Sunday in Inca, Spain, while Mexico (5-1) will oppose Yugoslavia (5-0) in the other medal round semifinal at 8 p.m. (2 p.m. EDT) Sunday in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Winners of those contests will move on to Monday night’s gold medal game, and the losers of those games will meet Monday afternoon in the bronze medal game.

The USA was lifted by a 23-7 run over the opening 7:27 in the second half to jump back in the game. In that run, Kenyon Martin (Cincinnati / Dallas, Texas) scored eight of his team high 19 points (8-10 FGs) and center Brendan Haywood (North Carolina / Greensboro, N.C.) tallied 10 of his 17 points as the Americans established a 56-52 lead with 12:33 to play. From that point on, the U.S. never trailed again and opened a 68-58 lead with 8:15 to play. However, Canada charged right back with a quick 7-0 run to cut the USA’s lead to 68-65 with 6:35 to play. But that was as close as they would come.

“Our intensity level was much different in the second half. I thought that Canada played harder than we did in the first half. I thought we played equally as hard as they did in the second half, and we were smarter,” said USA head coach Oliver Purnell of the University of Dayton (Ohio). “I sensed that once we got down in the first half and splintered a little bit, the key was that we came together as a team in the second half. It was really a good half, almost in all respects, except for free throw shooting. There’s no denying that we played a really good half, but if we hit our free throws then we really put them away. But as it was, you’ve got to give Canada a lot of credit for hanging in the ballgame.” With Canada holding a 30-28 lead with 4:26 to go in the opening half, the Canadians went on a 10-0 run that consumed just 1:09 and put them ahead 39-28 with 3:17 to play. After swapping buckets with the USA in the half’s last minute, Canada took its 45-33 lead to the locker room at halftime.

Joining Martin and Haywood among the USA’s leading scorers were forward Chris Carrawell (Duke / St. Louis, Mo.) who chalked up 12 points, and point guard Erick Barkley (St. John’s / Brooklyn, N.Y.) who checked in with 10 points. Scoonie Penn (Ohio State / Salem, Mass.) issued six assists and committed just one turnover in 27 minutes of playing time, and Pete Mickeal (Cincinnati / Rock Island, Ill.) came up with nine points and a game high three steals. Haywood led all U.S. players with nine rebounds, and Martin followed with seven boards.

“My play helped spark us a little bit. We were dead and I wasn’t playing very well in the first half, the team wasn’t playing very well. (My teammates) told me, ‘You get the ball, dunk everything.’ I did that, then the next thing I know, my game starts coming around. I started playing better on the defensive end. My hook went in for me. Once I started hitting the boards hard and I started playing harder, it just really helped out the team,” Haywood said.

For the fifth consecutive World University Games, the USA has defeated Canada in medal round play. In 1997, the U.S. claimed a 72-64 triumph in the gold medal game; in 1995, the Americans handed their neighbors to the north a 114-89 loss in the medal round semifinals; the United States won the 1993 World University Games gold with a 95-90 win against Canada; and in 1991, the USA issued Canada a 96-56 setback in the gold medal game. Overall, the USA holds a 7-2 series lead against Canada and has won each of the teams’ past six meetings.

Saturday’s win keeps the USA’s hopes for a sixth straight World University Games gold medal alive, while extending its World University Games winning streak to 38 games, dating back to the 1987 Games. Additionally, the U.S. now owns a 108-6 (.947) record and is attempting to win its 16th medal (11 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze) in its 16 appearances at the World University Games.

“This is a great team effort, the bench was really into it,” Martin said. “They lifted us on the court and we got it done. Spain’s the hometown favorite so we’ll have to go out with the same intensity that we had in the second half tonight.”

For the third consecutive World University Games, the USA will have to defeat the host nation in the medal round if it is to win the gold medal. In 1997, the U.S. bested Italy 67-51 in the semifinals and in 1995, Japan was the recipient of a 141-81 U.S. drubbing in the gold medal game. “We’ve scouted them and we’ll talk about them tonight and see them tomorrow. But I expect you’ll see a very emotional Spain team with a tremendous home court advantage. We’re going to have to play well to win,” Purnell said.