The USA men, led by K-State head coach Bruce Weber, were undefeated in all seven games throughout the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup, including a hard-fought 93-79 gold medal victory over Mali (5-2) on Sunday, July 7 in Heraklion, Greece.
Leading just 42-40 after a back-and-forth first half, the USA opened the third period with a 12-0 run that became a 17-2 stretch, and the USA led 59-42 at 5:42. Mali did not get closer than seven points for the remainder of the game.
The USA is 98-14 all-time in U19 men’s action and has won seven gold medals, three silvers and one bronze, including three of the past four gold medals. France beat Lithuania 73-68 to win the bronze medal.
Reggie Perry (Thomasville H.S./Thomasville, Ga.), who contributed 10 points in the gold medal game, was named MVP of the tournament. Joining Perry on the five-member all-tournament team was U.S. teammate Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State/Oshkosh, Wis.), as well as France’s Joel Ayayi and Mali’s Oumar Ballo and Siriman Kanoute.
Cade Cunningham (Montverde Academy, Fla./Arlington, Texas) led the USA in the gold medal victory 21 points, seven rebounds and seven assists; Jalen Suggs (Minnehaha Academy/Minneapolis, Minn.) scored 15 points to go with five rebounds; Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (IMG Academy, Fla./Overland Park, Kan.) scored 13 points and seven boards; and Scottie Barnes (University School/West Palm Beach, Fla.) had 11 points and eight rebounds.
Additionally, Haliburton dished out eight assists as the USA had 28 total assists; and Isaac Likekele (Oklahoma State/Arlington, Texas) collected 10 rebounds as the USA won the rebounding battle 59-43.
The first quarter saw Mali jump ahead 11-3. From there, the USA cut into the deficit, but still trailed 22-20 at the end of the first period. While the USA struggled from the filed in the first quarter, 25.0% (7-28), Mali was 50.0% (9-18).
The USA trailed Mali by five points for much of the second quarter but worked its way back to tie the game at 33-33 with 4:34 on the clock. The red, white and blue took a three-point lead for the first time since the start of the game, 39-36 at 2:02, but in the final minutes before halftime, Suggs made a 3-pointer while Mali added four points to make it 42-40 at the midway point.
The USA came racing out in the second half and helped by two 3-pointers from Suggs, led 54-40 before Mali scored its first points of the third period with 6:29 on the clock. The USA closed the quarter by outscoring Mali 19-15 to lead 73-55 with 10 minutes left in the game.
Mali came out red hot in the fourth quarter and outscored the USA 22-11 to come within seven points, 84-77, at 4:11. The USA closed out the game strong, however, and earned the 93-79 win.
Mali was the first team from FIBA Africa to play in a FIBA U19 World Cup gold medal game.