LAS VEGAS (AP) — A special pregame surprise awaited Team USA’s World Cup qualifiers Thursday night in the form of a speech from Mike Krzyzewski.
Coach K’s words worked again for the Americans.
John Jenkins scored 22 points on 8-for-9 shooting – including 6-of-7 from 3-point range – and the USA had no trouble en route to a 105-71 victory over Uruguay in a World Regional America’s Cup qualifying game, with Krzyzewski sitting courtside to enjoy the show.
“We knew when he came and talked to us that we had to put on a good performance and play hard,” Jenkins said.
Krzyzewski, Duke’s now-retired coach, led the U.S. to three straight Olympic gold medals in 2008, 2012 and 2016. His message was simple, revolving around how playing for the U.S. in a jersey means that playing with pride is a must.
Americans listened. They outscored Uruguay 33-13 in the second quarter, turning the game into a runaway game, and it stayed that way.
“Coach K talked to the team five minutes before I came in to talk before the game,” USA coach Jim Boylen said. “How was I supposed to follow it? … It was a really great honor, a great moment for all of us.”
The win, combined with Puerto Rico’s 75-72 win over Brazil (5-2) in another qualifier on Thursday, put the Americans alone atop their qualifying group.
Langston Galloway added 18 points for the Americans, who are likely now just two wins away from qualifying for next year’s World Cup.
The USA (6-1 in the qualifiers) made 3-pointers on four straight possessions during that second-quarter spurt, and never looked back. DaQuan Jeffries scored 16, Dewan Hernandez added 12 and Robert Woodard II had 11 for the Americans, who were 15 for 29 from 3-point range.
David Stockton, whose father John Stockton — The Basketball Hall of Famer — was also in attendance, added nine assists in 17 minutes for the U.S.
Esteban Batista and Luciano Perodi each had 14 for Uruguay (4-3), which remains firmly in the mix for a World Cup spot. Uruguay has the same record as Puerto Rico and Mexico, and Colombia (3-4) reinvigorated itself by rallying from 20 points down to stun Mexico in overtime, 93-89.
The USA opened the day tied with Brazil in the Group F standings. There are two groups of six teams in the Americas region, and the top three in each group — along with the best fourth-place team — will go to the World Cup.
The Americans can’t start packing for the World Cup just yet. But they can probably start thinking about what to bring.
In addition to the USA and Brazil, Group F also includes Puerto Rico, Mexico, Uruguay and Colombia. The other group in the Americas region, Group E, includes Canada (7-0), Venezuela (6-1), Argentina (5-2), Dominican Republic (5-2), Bahamas (2 -5) and Panama (2-5).
Uruguay led 4-0 after 20 seconds, and that was the only game for the South American visitors. The rest of the night was all USA, who took the easiest win of this qualifying tournament.
“Tonight, every guy we played as hard as he could play,” Boylen said.
See more about the 2023 World Cup
Watch Antetokounmpo score 40, not enough as Greece falls to Jokic, Serbia One year out from World Cup, USA Basketball prepares for games Mac McClung, Langston Galloway, USA Basketball’s World Cup titles August…
USA easily handles Uruguay in World Cup qualifier, 105-71 appeared first on NBCSports.com