US remains unbeaten in Basketball World Cup qualifying
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) — Rodney Purvis scored 14 points, Xavier Silas had 13 and sparked the Americans’ strong start, and the U.S. beat Cuba 84-48 on Friday night to remain unbeaten in qualifying for the 2019 Basketball World Cup.
The Americans raced to a 15-0 lead and improved to 3-0 in Group C. Silas had 10 points by halftime, when the U.S. led 41-24.
Next up for the Americans is Puerto Rico on Monday, also at the home of the Golden State Warriors’ G League affiliate.
“It’s all about being relentless,” Silas said. “We didn’t do that the entire time but I think there were some moments where we did and that’s a start, so we’re looking to come Monday with a little bit more effort and lock in a little bit more.”
Coach Jeff Van Gundy had to adjust to a new roster of G League players, with only two returning from the Americans’ first two games in November. But the new group came together quickly, particularly defensively, and limited the Cubans to 25 percent shooting.
Devin Williams finished with eight points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
“I came out with a lot of intensity and just stuck with what the coaches were planning for the last seven, eight days,” Williams said. “Just being who I am and the reason that I’m here, just continue to do that and take it to another level.”
Under FIBA’s new qualifying format, teams are playing home-and-home games against teams in their region to earn places in the World Cup in China. That tournament will qualify seven teams for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Because all of the qualifying games thus far have been played during the season, teams don’t have access to their NBA or top European personnel. The Americans are relying on G League players, with Van Gundy coaching the team before U.S. national team coach Gregg Popovich leads them in Asia.
Some players who took part last summer in the FIBA AmeriCup in South America, and then in the two World Cup qualifiers, have been called up to NBA teams, so they couldn’t suit up for the Americans again during this window.
“We hope the same thing for our group this time. But it does present a challenge of trying to build a team that has chemistry that these other teams that play together for much longer have already established,” Van Gundy said. “That’s the challenge, but it’s a great challenge.”
The Americans beat Puerto Rico and Mexico in November during the first window. Van Gundy said the Puerto Ricans (2-1) outplayed the Americans before the U.S. rallied for an 85-78 victory in Orlando, Florida.
Cuba fell to 0-3. The top three teams in the group advance to the second round.