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USA Men's Pan Am Team Edges Uruguay





SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (August 4, 2003) – Tenacious, hardscrabble defense and a daring defensive play by Andre Barrett (Seton Hall / Bronx, N.Y.) with time draining from the clock helped the USA Basketball Men's Pan American Games Team (2-1) secure a nail-biting 74-72 victory over Uruguay (1-2) and advance to the medal-round competition on Tuesday. The critical win was the USA's third consecutive down-to-the-wire game. Opening Pan Am action Saturday with a 74-72 thrilling win over Argentina, the Americans ended up on the short end of an 86-85 barn burner versus Puerto Rico Sunday evening.

With the win, the Americans finished 2-1 in preliminary pool play and assured themselves a second place finish in Group B behind Puerto Rico. Uruguay with the loss fell to 1-2 and moves into the consolation round with Argentina. The second place finish earns the USA a trip to medal round semifinals on Tuesday. The U.S. will next meet the Group A first place finisher which will be determined later tonight when host Dominican Republic (2-0) faces Brazil (2-0) in a 9 p.m.(EDT) game.

“That game was unbelievable,” said head coach Tom Izzo (Michigan State University). “Other than the start, we really locked them up defensively. We didn't shoot it as well as we had in previous games, but our defense was a lot better.

Barrett and Josh Childress (Stanford / Los Angeles, Calif.) led a hard-nosed USA defensive effort that continuously disrupted the Uruguay offense.

“Andre and Josh did an incredible job,” Izzo added. “I asked Josh to step it up and be more physical, and he did everything I asked. We missed some open shots, but we scored in other ways. I think we scored on almost every in-bounds play and we did a good job down on the block.”

After Uruguay built a 33-23 lead on a Gustavo Szczgielski 17-foot jumper with 636 left in the second quarter, the USA went on a 10-0 run to tie the score with 242 left in the period. Chuck Hayes (Kentucky / Modesto, Calif.) contributed half the points in the stretch, including two tough baskets in the paint and a free throw to tie the game. Three treys from the Uruguayans, including a prayer of a heave by Luis Silveria that beat the shot clock, left the USA trailing 42-36 at halftime.

After Uruguay's Silveria snared the opening tip to drive for a layup, the USA cranked its defensive intensity up several notches. The USA's increased defensive efforts fed a 19-11 run that tied the game at 55 when Arthur Johnson (Missouri / Detroit, Mich.) finished a fast break off a Blake Stepp (Gonzaga / Eugene, Ore.) steal with two minutes left in the quarter. Barrett scored seven of the first nine points in the run, with Johnson adding six hard-won points in the paint.

Uruguay’s Mazzarino broke the tie with a pair of free throws with 1:35 left in the third, but Chris Hill (Michigan State / Indianapolis, Ind.) answered with a layup with 58 seconds left that was started when Brandon Mouton (Texas / Lafayette, La.) blocked a Trelonnie Owens shot. The two sides added a basket to close the quarter tied at 59.

The USA went on an 8-4 run to hold a 69-63 lead when Childress slammed it home with 4:28 left on a breakaway started by Rickey Paulding's (Missouri / Detroit, Mich.) block of a Mazzarino shot. Mazzarino answered with a 3-pointer at 4:12, igniting a 9-2 Uruguay run that saw it surge in front 72-71 with 125 to go. Johnson tied the game with a free throw at 1:07, then Paulding inched the Americans back ahead with another free throw with 33 seconds to go.

Uruguay's shot to take the lead missed, but Childress was tied up on the rebound and the possession arrow gave the ball back to Uruguay. Seven seconds later, Barrett reached in to tie up Alejandro Muro in the open floor, gaining possession back for the USA. Paulding hit the back end of a two-shot foul with eight seconds left to give the Americans a tenuous two-point cushion.

“I wanted to put pressure on every pass down the stretch," said Barrett of his game-saving play. "When I saw him put the ball down at my level, and I was already down there, I reached out and snatched it.”

“That was an unbelievable play by Andre Barrett to get us the ball at the end of the game,” remarked Izzo. “It was heads-up all the way. We really needed his leadership today. He got us into our offensive, scored the ball well and delivered in the clutch.”

Down by two, Mazzarino drove the right side of the lane, then kicked the ball out to a waiting Silveria in the left corner for the would-be game-winning three. Silveria's off-balance attempt clanged off the iron as the horn sounded and the Americans had the thrilling 74-72 win.

Johnson led the USA effort with 17 points, supported by Barrett's 11, and 10 from Hayes, who added a game-high seven rebounds. Mazzarino led all scorers with 23, 14 of which came in the second half.

USA Team Notes

The win over Uruguay assured the USA of a berth in the medal round, its 13th appearance in 14 Pan American Games. The only time the USA failed to advance to the medal round was in 1971, a team that featured Bob McAdoo, Don Buse and Bob Ford. That was the only time the USA did not come away from a Pan Am Games with a medal.

Team USA is now 5-0 against Uruguay. The last meeting between the two came in Mar del Plata in 1995, an overtime affair that ended in a 104-96 USA victory. Monday's two-point win was the smallest victory margin the USA has had over Uruguay. The USA is now 81-9 all-time in Pan American Games play.

While Andre Barrett is providing critical floor leadership to the Americans, he's also pursuing a USA tournament record for 3-point accuracy. Currently 6-of-10 (60.0 percent) from 3-point range, he is challenging the mark of 61.5 percent, set by A.J. Wynder in Argentina 1995. Wynder hit 8-of-12 for the tournament in Mar del Plata.

To find out just how hard the USA squad was working on the defensive end against Uruguay, look no further than the turnovers column. The Americans caused 17 turnovers in the game. Perhaps most impressive were the three shot clock violations the USA forced, including a key one with 37 seconds left and the game tied at 72.

While we haven't conducted a full-blown tour of all the venues, it may be safe to assume that the J.P. Duarte Center where basketball is being played is the "coolest" at this year's Pan American Games. After a muggy start on Saturday, the air conditioning units have been working overtime to keep the players and fans cool, to the point that long pants are necessary on press row. It works to the players' advantage, though - the number of players slipping on perspiration appears to have dropped, as have the pauses to mop up the lane and spots where players have hit the floor chasing loose balls.

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