By Chris Kaftan
SOFIA, Bulgaria – After a sluggish start against Argentina, the U.S. Men’s Basketball Team struggled to find its groove before picking up on offense and going on a dominating run to finish off the Argentines, 101-73, on Thursday in Universiad Sports Hall.
Argentina opened with a fast offense and coordinated team play. Their quick start in the first quarter tripped up the Americans and threw off their rhythm, and the team struggled to recover.
“We started off poorly, and we needed to find our game,” head coach Keith Westhoelter said.
The U.S. settled down in the second quarter, ahead 32-30, and exploded on offense for a 15-0 run to enter halftime up, 47-30.
Center Danny Kelly led all U.S. scorers with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Guard Layton Seeber continued his hot shooting from beyond the arc, netting four of six 3-point shots. He finished with 15 points.
“We were definitely not into our style of playing and let the referees get into our heads,” Brandon McMillan said. “Once we settled in, things were better.”
The U.S. bench proved to be one of its biggest assets, as players came off the bench to contribute 50 of USA’s 101 total points. Raymond Nelson came off the bench to score 13 points and put up two rebounds, three assists and two steals.
The U.S. faces Pan American rival Venezuela in the men’s basketball semifinals Friday.
When the two teams met in the finals of the Pan American Games for the Deaf last summer in Brazil, Venezuela defeated the U.S., 84-82.
“Venezuela is a very fast and talented team,” Westhoelter said. “We need to play our game and play strong defense. If we do that, then we’ll do good.”
The game is at 2 p.m. (7 a.m. ET) Friday at Universiada Sports Hall.