Lamb sank a pull-up 17-footer with 1.8 seconds left in Tuesday's matchup of gold medal favorites to deliver the U.S. U-19 team a dramatic 107-105 overtime victory over an opponent it lost to twice in exhibition play. The bucket served as a fitting conclusion to a brilliant 35-point, 13-of-23 shooting night from the UConn sophomore.
That Lamb came through with the game on the line should come as no surprise to anyone who watched him hit some of the biggest shots during the Huskies' surprise run to the national title last season. The lanky guard has scored a team-high 16.8 points per game in the first four games of pool play, enabling the U.S. to emerge as the lone undefeated team in the tournament with one game remaining before the single-elimination medal round begins Friday.
Few would have expected the U.S. to be in such prime position after it dropped a pair of exhibition games against Lithuania last week by a combined 62 points. The U.S. appeared to lack the star power to defend its 2009 gold medal after standouts from North Carolina and Kentucky declined invitations to try out for the team, but a less heralded group has helped the team exceed expectations in group play.
Creighton's Doug McDermott has averaged 12.2 points and 6.8 rebounds, solidifying that his excellent freshman season was no fluke. Florida's Patric Young has emerged as the team's top back-to-the-basket big man, scoring a pair of key baskets late in overtime to spearhead a U.S. comeback from a 101-95 deficit. And Memphis point guard Joe Jackson has built on his strong finish last season, though his turnover with 19 seconds left and the U.S. up four was a major reason Lithuania forced overtime.
The primary star, however, has been Lamb, which is great news for a UConn program that needs him to emerge as its go-to scorer in the absence of Kemba Walker.
Lamb looks up to the task so far. And that means the Huskies likely will again be a threat in the Big East and the national title picture.